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Streaming Instructs Ecommerce

Streaming Instructs Ecommerce

How Streaming Is Reinventing E-Commerce

What Netflix, HBO Max, and others can teach us about doing business better online.

I’m going to repost a very insightful article from Inc.

Normally, I’d edit and quote, but the article is succinct, well-written and contains some great advice.

The author delivers three points that streaming services can inform better ecommerce practices. They are:

1. Fight for Attention or Fail.

Streaming giants know that their success relies on how much of their users’ time they can siphon, especially as new, tempting distractions emerge from all sides. In 2013, Netflix was still focused on beating HBO: The company said its goal was “to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.”

Yet by 2019, video games had become a much larger threat: 15-29-year-olds were averaging 39 minutes a day playing games. “We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO,” Netflix said.

By 2020, the sign posts had moved yet again: Netflix congratulated TikTok on its astounding growth, “showing the fluidity of internet entertainment.” TikTok has overtaken YouTube in watch time in the U.S., getting over 45 minutes per day from its audience. The common thread in the changing competitive landscape was attention: Netflix still needed to beat its traditional competitors, but also needed to take on anyone else vying for its audience’s time.

While many retailers have yet to realize it, they too are engaged in this same battle for users’ attention. The success of e-commerce has evolved from the traditional focus of increasing conversion and reducing returns to also including metrics that represent trust, dialogue, and discovery with the customer. Metrics such as account creation and post-purchase engagement are now critical to sustained success.

As IRL options flood back in, the competition for users’ time intensifies. In May, retail sales dropped 1.3 percent, as consumers diverted money towards long-awaited services and experiences. That’s why it’s crucial now to focus on winning — and keeping — consumers’ attention. It’s the surest way to remain relevant.

2. Experience Talks, Transactions Walk.

What streaming giants excel in is great content, or, in other words, entertainment. Users are immersed on streaming platforms because they feel thoroughly entertained. Yet streamers have also learned the hard way that it isn’t enough to just have great content — they have to get users to discover it and watch it too. That’s why streaming services make discovery so much fun for users, while also aggressively moving them towards committing to watching a program as quickly as possible. Movies and shows autoplay as soon as the cursor hovers over the preview picture, opening titles have been scrapped in favor of instant beginnings, and ending credits are replaced by autoplaying the next great piece of content.

That same type of immediate, content-rich engagement is now true of great e-commerce sites. But many are still stuck in the one-dimensional mode of closing a quick deal. Not so long ago, shoppers did their research in-stores, surreptitiously whipping out their phone to check prices and reviews online. They slinked out of the store — or more accurately, the showroom — and settled in behind the computer to buy the same item from whoever offered the cheapest price.

Brands learned to accept and then monetize that practice, and e-commerce took a transactional position in the retail experience. As a result, e-commerce sites were optimized to get out of customers’ way: to remove friction and make it as easy as possible to complete the transaction.

However, with the digitalization that accelerated as more and more stores shuttered during the pandemic, e-commerce is now no longer the last, thrifty step in an immersive brick-and-mortar purchase process. Instead, it’s a 360-degree experience: an always-on engagement program that spans the full customer lifecycle, including post-purchase ownership.

Today’s e-commerce sites are complete brand experiences, where brand, mission, product, and lifestyle are intertwined into rich storylines that can suck the consumer in like a great show, and leave shoppers wanting more (or wondering where the time went) — just like Netflix and HBO.

3. Go Live or Go Home.

Most streaming giants operate a livestream arm alongside their ready-to-stream content: Amazon Prime Video has an ever-expanding selection of live sports, and Amazon-owned Twitch dominates gaming livestreams. Netflix started testing Direct, a linear TV channel, in France last year. And both Disney and HBO have adopted the hybrid movie release model, where fans can see the latest blockbuster in theaters or right away at home. Retailers are now realizing the power of bringing live content to their audiences too.

Livestream shopping isn’t new, but this is the first time that all the pieces have fallen into place to make it hot in the U.S. Technology, culture, and consumer behavior are all converging in this space to finally make it premium, fun, and intimate. In livestream shopping, hosts (generally influencers) tell their origin stories, demonstrate products, introduce their friends, interact with the audience, and accept orders. The format generated $60 billion in sales globally in 2019 — with China far in the lead, and only $1 billion of those sales taking place in the U.S. However, the arrival of exceptional new players such as Ntwrk is changing that, and dominant platforms such as Instagram are joining in.

All e-commerce companies are now entertainment companies. The best way for retailers to thrive is to hook customers in and get them to linger with exceptional content. Livestreams are the next natural evolution from that.

RELATED: Live Streaming E-Commerce Is The Rage In China. Is The U.S. Next?

Forbes


cgk.ink works across multiple media to address the new demands of ecommerce. Let’s discuss how this might your business.

Who Are You?

Who Are You?

The Who asked, poignantly, Who the fuck are you? And the answer is overwhelmingly that you are pieces of data collected and maintained by the world’s wealthiest companies.

In a recent post on BBC’s Futures “The Online Data That’s Being Deleted,” Chris Baraniuk discusses the consequences of a digital catastrophe. He focuses on a recently published book by Susan Donovan: New York City Hypogeographies. The premise? In 2250, electrical pulses wipe most data from our servers. All hell breaks loose. I highly recommend the read.

Information wants to be free.

The quote is attributed to Stewart Brand, publisher of The Whole Earth Catalogue. There is a second line to that edict: “Information also wants to be expensive.” And it is. We may think nothing of snapping away at blurry ceiling fans and cute kittens and what we’re eating without thinking of the real cost. Well, there are very real costs.

The BBC reports that bitcoin mining (data) uses “more electricity than the country of Argentina.” To be precise, this much:

RELATED: How to profit from greener bitcoin miners:

Critics of crypto mining, including dogecoin fan and Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk, have slammed the practice for being bad for the environment because of the massive amount of energy consumed. Mining farms in China have been scrutinized in particular, and the Chinese government has since cracked down on the practice.


Deciding which data needs to be preserved is a subjective exercise. What do you pick? And why? What importance does 10 Gbs of (adorable and cute-for-days) images of my dog have? And at what cost? as an example, this site contains 8+ Gbs. We tend to think that this costs nothing. But it does. Data-centric companies rely on an endless stream of independently created data. So we rush about our day creating it, for free, so that they may resell it. Kinda fucking brilliant.

Curate or Die

As an ecommerce retailer, it’s important to understand that more is not necessarily better. I’ve written before about the importance of curation. Selectively, critically and mindfully choosing the information you present has far greater value than simply vomiting into peoples’ laptops. You’re not Amazon and you will never be Amazon, so act smarter.


cgk.ink works with businesses to narrow their focus and pinpoint opportunities. Let’s talk to see how this might benefit you.

Post-Pandemic Ecommerce Data Emerges

Post-Pandemic Ecommerce Data Emerges

Plague. Pandemic. Disaster. However you name it, we have changed profoundly.

I’ve written earlier that porn drove us online. Now, viruses are making ecommerce an economic staple. It’s easy to see why. Just how far has ecommerce carried us through this public health catastrophe? It turns out, pretty damn far. Ecommerce’s growth stats kinda resemble a rocket launch:

Statistic: Retail e-commerce sales in the United States from 1st quarter 2009 to 1st quarter 2021 (in million U.S. dollars) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Ecommerce has grown at a reliably predictable rate over the previous decade. And then, it went insane. Consumer acceptance of online retail — perhaps the key indicator of future trends — undeniably tracks closely to the virus’ infection rates. 

However, this growth wave is tightly coupled with a profound and comprehensive move to “online everything.” Companies need to be ready for amazing digital growth, and its potential problems, from scaling issues to cybersecurity challenges presented by rushed deployments, architectural mistakes, and online instability. In other words, we need not only disaster preparedness but opportunity preparedness.

Fortune

cgk.ink researches, investigates and experiments with ecommerce-specific technology. Let’s talk about how can help you maneuver a post-pandemic marketplace.

Summer 2021: Redux & Tan Lines

Summer 2021: Redux & Tan Lines

To be frank, I’m having anxiety about the relaxation of COVID mandates.

I also really, really want to get to the beach. And this confuses me because, do we all want to be walking around with COVID tans? I mean, it’s gonna be kinda weird with a huge swath of your face untanned. Right around the mouth. Not good, as our friends at FOX have clearly thought of this and present this horrific image (with multiple sociological implications):

I’ve endured the months-long COVID illness; my daily fever reading was an FM radio station number. My dog hates me. My Amazon delivery guy is getting to know way too much about me and I am vacuuming, gardening and doing laundry at unprecedented levels (and still losing socks – what is that?) I have not started baking, though, so there is hope that my laziness is not in peril.

So Now What?

Well, I’ve (like you) have had a lot of time staring at my ceiling fan and/or abusing Netflix/Amazon Prime/Hulu/Disney+. Here is what I’ve come up with so far:

Delivery has become an essential service.

I live in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA). So I have no shortage of amazing food and stores on my own block. Delivery has always been a 3-second conversation in my head that went along the lines of: “I want a cheeseburger. There is a cheeseburger place on my own block and they’re excellent. Stop being a lazy fuck.” Would that I could live on cheeseburgers.

But I can’t. Ordering online has become a lifeline and the technology is as good as the people who make it happen. This is not about convenience. It’s about basic needs being met during a time of great difficulty.

RELATED: Amazon to Raise Pay (NYT)

Everyone else needs to catch up.

The disparities between offline and online have never been starker. If Amazon can deliver toothpaste, a USB cord and pretzels in 2 hours, why can’t FEMA? Certainly, that’s an unfair comparison… kinda. Delivery of online goods is not a luxury anymore, it is downright mandatory. Whether it’s sushi or a bandage, the bar just got raised on how you communicate.

We have no idea what the fuck we’re doing.

Ecommerce just got very, very real, people. I am very keen on watching how businesses adapt. And I’m seeing some very good signs that small businesses (my focus at cgk.ink) are moving at light speed. Mistakes are happening everywhere and that’s a great sign that individuals and groups are experimenting and pushing limits.

I know, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. And I’m very tired of using the words “the new normal” since that’s a very conditionally subjective term. I grew up with ready access to some of the best beaches in the world. As a kid, my world revolved around that briny smell and tide ponds and squishy wet things. I live in DTLA now which is not too far from the beach. If I find out how to order all that online, I will!

cgk.ink is watching closely as ecommerce evolves while getting partially tan in California. Sometimes.

Arturo Rios

Arturo Rios

the MARKETPLACE showcases the creators with who we work. They are exceptionally talented; uniquely innovative and understand ecommerce intuitively.

Arturo loves the colors of nature, flowers, particularly birds. His inspiration comes from what he sees in everyday life, combining vintage materials with modern ideas.

Since 2005, Arturo has been designing fabulous couture head wear worn by famous personalities and clients around the world. Celebrities including, Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B.,  Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Daisy Fuentes, Tyra Banks, Paris Hilton, Juliette Lewis, Lindsay Lohan, Adrianne Bailon, Adriana Lima, Princess Theodora of Greece and Denmark and others. Arturo’s work has appeared on many international runways, red carpet events, and in high end fashion publications like, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, People, Numero, Marie Claire, Brides and other mixed media.

Creative design is not a solo endeavor.

cgk.ink welcomes the opportunity to work with inspiring creators in all media.

Interested in collaborating with us? Let’s talk!

4 Things to Contemplate About Ecommerce

4 Things to Contemplate About Ecommerce

I’m very interested in this piece by Jay McCall in DevProJournal.com:

Retail Industry Trends Software Developers Need to Respect

Although the intent might have been different, it did trigger my mind to organize the main points into (broadly) four categories worthy of ecommerce professionals’ attention.

PULL

Subrah Iyar, CEO and Co-Founder of Moxtra, sees retailers shifting from a “push” model to a “pull” model. “Businesses need to adopt digital solutions to keep customers satisfied and continue growing their businesses. They’ll shift experiences to doing businesses where customers can pull services on-demand rather than pushing their services onto a customer. To enable the on-demand ‘pull’ engagement model for customer experience means that digital workspaces will be consolidated to act as virtual extensions of business,” he says.

In other words, stop annoying your customers. I’m pretty sure no one wishes to receive more unsolicited emails.

UBIQUITY

Christine Spang, CTO of Nylas, says, “Over the past five years, there has been an explosion of communication platforms, from Twitter to Slack. We have seen certain channels like SMS messaging shrink while, surprisingly to some, email is growing as a primary form of communication.”

Digital marketplaces are expanding at an alarming rate. Every app/platform/thingamajig can conduct traditional ecommerce. And that might create some major opportunities. It also requires a strategy and an actionable plan — otherwise, you will scramble trying to manage your marketing efforts across dozens (if not more) of platforms. You can see this in action by checking out brands across the chaotic shit storm that is “social media.”

TRANSPARENCY

Scott Agatep, Executive Vice President, Solutions and Services, ScanSource: “developers are working feverishly to make all business functions, from payments to inventory management and payroll, easy and accessible to everyone.”

If ecommerce technologies make your outward reach nearly universal, it also means everyone knows your business. And if you try and block that access, you will quickly find that no one is interested in buying your stuff. Be open about where you source materials from, who makes your products and (a big one), what is the environmental impact your .com is having.

CHANGE

Yes, I am close to vomiting at the thought of millenials being used as a noun. So let’s get this one over with:

“Millennials are rejecting traditional payment solutions like credit cards in favor of options that are integrated into their favorite merchants’ e-commerce sites, such as digital revolving credit,” says Harris. “Market research shows that 67 percent of millennials don’t even have a credit card because they regard them as financially burdensome.”

Harris suggests integrating more flexible online payment solutions into e-commerce sites to meet millennials’ demands for more flexible payment options – and increase revenues for merchants – will be an important retail industry trend that developers need to consider when planning for 2021.

This, of course does not even address the rise of cryptocurrencies (but I have).

cgk.ink is a nimble, rapid and deep solution to implementing these four points. Let’s talk.

Your Pets Are Tired of You

Your Pets Are Tired of You

Your pet wants you to go back to work.

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, you’re embarrassing them in front of their friends. It’s cool if you decided to wear that 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.

They’re not going anywhere.

Upload files

SHIPPING: An Unsustainable Nightmare

SHIPPING: An Unsustainable Nightmare

Ecommerce has a disconnect problem. The ease of pressing “ORDER” is diametrically opposed to the real-world effort that goes on when you transact with a retailer.

In a brief article, Forbes’ Retail’s Future: Open-Air, Curbside, And Data-Driven by Investing writer Greg Petro maps out some of the overlooked, but unavoidable consequences of ecommerce replacing brick-and-mortar retail operations.

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. 

Amazon (and others) know this and recognize that it is a prohibitively expensive block for even large retailers. So multiple hybrid “solutions” are attempted; Amazon Locker, their horribly executed alliance with Kohl’s, and start up “return services.” It’s with a small smile that I’ve read that Amazon is quietly opening its own physical shops

What has been your experience with managing shipping and return policies? Leave a comment below.

COVID-19’s Impact on Global Networks

COVID-19’s Impact on Global Networks

An update on the internet congestion’s details during COVID-19

Allconnect recently compiled data to provide key information on the best and worst times to be online. Of interest, specifically:

  • Days of the week with the fastest upload & download speeds
  • How to best avoid high latency periods
  • Average speed by according to the time of day

You can view the full report here:

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.

TL;DR

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.

(source)

For a much more detailed analysis of how Corona-19 has effected global internet usage, look here. It’s fascinating.

IMPORTANT: UPDATE ON SHIPPING DELAYS

IMPORTANT: UPDATE ON SHIPPING DELAYS

We are experiencing significant delays in processing orders.

On average, we are seeing delays of 7-10 days on new orders. This is primarily due to reduced staffing, slower delivery and additional time needed to process payments.

Delays are not uniform and the amount of time needed to process items depends on the supplier. We’re monitoring this daily and will contact you if the delays are extraordinary.

Questions? We welcome your questions. Contact us.

GUEST POST: Fast Fashion vs Slow Fashion

GUEST POST: Fast Fashion vs Slow Fashion

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.

You can read the entire post here.

COVID Pushes Ecomm Over the Top

COVID Pushes Ecomm Over the Top

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:

cgk.ink | ecommerce growth

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.

(Sources)

The Future: More of the Same

“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.

Related article: U.S. Ecommerce Up 92.7%

Robots Deliver, No Mask Needed

Robots Deliver, No Mask Needed

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.”

SOURCE:ZDNet.com

Mandalas & Jung

Mandalas & Jung

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.

— Michael Koth, MyPhysicology.com

Jung and Mandala

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.

Christian Mandala

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).

Jungian Mandala

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.

 

Psychology and Alchemy, Princeton University Press, 1993)

JPL’s Visions of the Future: The Inspiration

JPL’s Visions of the Future: The Inspiration

JPL’s Visions of the Future

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..

Thievery Corporation

Thievery Corporation

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:

  1. I’ve made the design
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Proving copyright

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?


Amy’s Your Cake or Your Life design has also been ripped off.

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

How Much Are You Worth?

How Much Are You Worth?

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.

Read Nathan Hawkesanswer to How much should a WordPress developer charge for a complete overhaul? on Quora

Shipping and the Messy Part About Returns

Shipping and the Messy Part About Returns

Sending Things.

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 Expensive

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.”

Quarantine & Ecommerce

Quarantine & Ecommerce

Quarantine does have its advantages.

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.

 

RELATED: U.S. Ecommerce Up 92.7%

The Change is Permanent

This isn’t happening automatically. There has been a fundamental shift in e-commerce and the signs are just beginning to show. McKinsey & Company has a fairly good read with “The great consumer shift: Ten charts that show how US shopping behavior is changing

Not to put too fine a point on it, but there is this:

Black Friday shopping in stores craters 52% during the pandemic as e-commerce sales surge.

  • Traffic at stores on Black Friday fell by 52.1% compared with last year, according to preliminary data from Sensormatic Solutions.
  • “Shoppers are spreading out their shopping throughout the holiday season because of concerns about social distancing and the pandemic,” said Brian Field.
  • Online spending on Black Friday surged 21.6% to hit a new record, according to data from Adobe Analytics.

CNBC, again

It is a perfect confluence. Isolation + Fear = Online Shopping. And boy, did it take off. With roughly nine months of experiencing the cataclysm that is COVID-19, The data is astounding:

  • Holiday shoppers spent $10.8 billion on Cyber Monday, up 15.1% from a year ago, setting a record for the largest U.S. online shopping day ever, according to Adobe.
  • That came in short of Adobe’s original forecast of $12.7 billion in spending.
  • Adobe cut its online sales forecast for the entire holiday season to $184 billion, which is a 30% increase from last year.
  • Shoppers started their gift-buying earlier than ever, as retailers promoted deals in October.

CNBC

Fuck Fashion

Fuck Fashion

I’ve written a lot about fashion and ecommerce.

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

(Source)

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

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?

The Machinists

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.

SO MUCH MORE HERE

From ELUXE Magazine, a list of five of the most ethically-probing documentaries about the fashion industry

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF FASHION

From Investopedia, a studied financial analysis of the fashion industry. Always follow the money.

BONUSES +:

Chanel Spring-Summer 2018

In which we are hypnotized by how glamorous we are not when we are at the airport. Obviously, there is no coach class. It’s pure performance art. Good job, Karl. RIP.

FUCK FASHION

By my newest, most favoritest diva, Manila Luzon. The manatee kills me.

Scam Shops & Poisoned Wells. FUN!

Scam Shops & Poisoned Wells. FUN!

Your Ranking Just Became a Target

In an article on ZDNet by for Zero Day learn of a kinda creepy new type of extortion:

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:

  1. User visits hacked WordPress site.
  2. The hacked WordPress site redirects the user’s request to view the site to the malware’s C&C server.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

And Worserer

[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.

(Source: ZDNet)

H&M: First Major Retailer to Recycle Consumer Clothing

H&M: First Major Retailer to Recycle Consumer Clothing

New York (CNN Business) —

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.”

Read the full article here.

Curate or Die

Curate or Die

We’re cultural slobs.

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:

cu·ra·tion
/kyəˈrāSHən/
noun
noun: curation; plural noun: curations
  1. 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.

 

COMPETITION?

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 Times piece.) 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.

What’s your focus? 

Let’s talk.

 

CUSTOM JOURNALS

CUSTOM JOURNALS

WHAT DO YOU THINK? 

“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!

Questions? Contact me.

 

FEATURES

 

90gsm Paper
 

Semi-gloss Laminated Cover
 
Casewrap Binding

UPLOAD YOUR DESIGN

Upload files






CURRENT JOURNALS

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Porn + Food = Ecommerce

Porn + Food = Ecommerce

I ran across an interesting article on the BBC “Worklife” page titled: “The curious origins of online shopping.”

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.[9] Amazon was founded in the garage of Bezos’ rented home in Bellevue, Washington.[7][10][11] Bezos’ parents invested almost $250,000 in the start-up.[12]

SOURCE: Wikipedia

The Porn Paradigm

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.

— Source: BBC

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.

“A real inflection point for online shopping as we know it today could be traced to around 2017. By the end of the prior year, many Americans were “starting to shop online as often as [they] take out the trash”; according to the Pew Research Center, eight in 10 Americans used a computer or phone to buy something online that year – as opposed to the just 22% who did so in 2000.”

— Source: BBC

EARLY, BUT DEAD, PIONEERS in ECOMMERCE

(my hat’s off to them)

COVID-19: Further Impacts Ecommerce

COVID-19: Further Impacts Ecommerce

306 million Americans are affected by stay-at-home orders. This is 95% of the U.S. population.

(Source: Forbes)

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. 

Can we distribute health?

the TRAVEL JOURNALS

the TRAVEL JOURNALS

TRAVEL INSPIRES

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!

Fast Destruct Fashion

Fast Destruct Fashion

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.

The above comes from an excellent source:

Fast Fashion Facts: What you need to know

from 7Billion for 7Seas.com

I rely heavily on Print-on-Demand companies like Printify and Printful. So I becoming increasingly concerned that I am becoming part of the problem and not helping the issue

 

This company has a pretty smart response (and they’re cute, too! BONUS!)

U.S. Ecommerce Up 92.7%

U.S. Ecommerce Up 92.7%

  • U.S. e-commerce sales jumped by 92.7% in May, according to a new SpendingPulse report from Mastercard. In April and May, consumers spent more than $53 billion via e-commerce in the U.S.
  • 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.
 

Insight:

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. 

Echoing forecasts from analysts at Wedbush and Morgan Stanley, eMarketer’s latest report doesn’t point to digital sales making up for the losses of brick-and-mortar store closures. As online sales rise, the constraints of e-commerce are coming to the forefront, especially returns and supply chain snags. It’s not clear how much consumer shopping behaviors will change, maybe permanently, because of the pandemic.

“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.”

— Source

DON’T BE A DICK: ADA Compliance

DON’T BE A DICK: ADA Compliance

Ecommerce ignores those with disabilities.

We tend to think that all of our visitors have perfect eyesight and perfectly capable limbs and ears that work as expected.

Obviously, it’s not true. According to the World Bank:

  • One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability, and disability prevalence is higher for developing countries.
  • One-fifth of the estimated global total, or between 110 million and 190 million people, experience significant disabilities.

(MORE STATISTICS)

Disability Statistics in the United States

Here’s a more specific look at the number of people in the United States who could find their way to your website and who also live with various disabilities:

  • As of 2016, an estimated 3.8 million people aged 21 to 64 years were blind or had serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses
  • 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.

Solutions

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:

Multiple Options

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.

  1. You can pay a firm to audit, fix and certify your site with authority ($)
  2. Run a self-compliance test and then have it certified ($)
  3. 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.

 

Accessible Design is Good Design”
-Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft

New Payment Options

New Payment Options

UPDATE: Newer Options with Cryptocurrency

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

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)

Zelle

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

Choices

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:

7 + 13 =

COVID-19 Shows Ecommerce’s Strengths and Weaknesses

COVID-19 Shows Ecommerce’s Strengths and Weaknesses

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:

(This article originally appeared on ABACUS)

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.
Human Design: Namsa Leuba

Human Design: Namsa Leuba

Vivid portraits shine light on Tahiti’s ‘third gender’

Published 9th October 2019
 
Written by
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.

Stats vs. Design

Stats vs. Design

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.”

Source: creativebloq.com

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: 

Source: SproutSocial

Mob Rule

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.

Unsplash, Thank You!

Unsplash, Thank You!

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:

Manifesto

In 2013, we started Unsplash by giving away 10 images we had leftover from a photoshoot. Instead of letting our photos sit dead in a folder somewhere, we thought it would be much better if they were put to use to move other creative projects forward.

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.

Our values:

  1. Share. Remix, rework, recreate. This only works if we all take part. So share, manipulate, and reshare.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Shopify, Drop Shipping and You.

Shopify, Drop Shipping and You.

Drop-shipping is not necessarily an evil thing.

 

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.

Source: Pagely.com

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.

Source: Youtube.com

Worse than this, many of these video-makers are attempting to sell training or coaching services on the back of this “drop-shipping opportunity”.

Source: Youtube.com

Source: theecomclubhouse.com

There are way to do this correctlly and make a decent income by being realistic. I’ll explore that in my next post.

Warehoused

Warehoused

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 Theory

Color Theory

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).

Yeah, so?

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!

Print-on-Demand Custom Orders

Print-on-Demand Custom Orders

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:

Cute, right?

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.

There’s a lot more detail to this process than I’m revealing, but the concept is solid. 

cgk.ink has lots of experience in designing, editing and preparing images and designs that play nicely with Printify’s requirements.

If you have an idea of an image or design that you’d like to see on almost any garment, houseware, decor or accessory, let’s start that conversation below! We’d love to work with you!

15 + 12 =

Plays Well With Others

Plays Well With Others

cgk.ink is very connected

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?

She is, of course, well known by The Gentleman Octopus and has created some stunning new products.

Latest Designs from

Little Shiva

We’re also working with organizations, non-profits, individuals, and collectives to bring us together and find weird, unexpected ways that ecommerce is presenting itself to us.

Wanna join? Drop us a note!

“Brushing” Amazon Accounts and the Loss of Innocence

“Brushing” Amazon Accounts and the Loss of Innocence

Online reviews are a lot like bad relationships:

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.”

Helena Gerwitz, front second from left, with the team at Feature Radiators in West YorkshireImage copyright FEATURERADIATORS
Helena Gerwitz, front second from left, says her company gets “lovely” feedback which it posts on its website

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.

Some of the parcels which were sent to Mr Bailey included a USB mobile fan and a tattoo removal kit.Image copyright PAUL BAILEY
Some of the parcels which were sent to Mr. Bailey included a USB mobile fan and a tattoo removal kit

“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.”

Source: BBC

Plays Well With Others

Ecommerce Hits Milestone in 2018

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:

Despite the latest milestone, e-commerce sales still account for no more than roughly 10 percent of total retail sales in the United States, illustrating that the “Retail Apocalypse” isn’t as close as some might think. 

(Source: Statista)

SkyNet is Hilarious!

SkyNet is Hilarious!

AI can often produce inconceivable results.

Google’s own facial recognition AI identified black people as gorillas:

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)

My Design Mind

My Design Mind

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:

Ta da…

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.

 

And it’s owned by Amazon.

Amazon Drops Their No-Compete Pricing Policy

Amazon Drops Their No-Compete Pricing Policy

from CNN Business:

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.

CNN Business

Ecommerce’s Dirty, Little  Environmental Problem

Ecommerce’s Dirty, Little Environmental Problem

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.”

— Washington Post

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.”

Further Reading:

Existential Thoughts on Ecommerce

Existential Thoughts on Ecommerce

So, 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.

Appreciate time.

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.]]>

Hands on Ecommerce: 101

Hands on Ecommerce: 101

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"]cgk.ink | STORE 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 store as 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:

  1. You select an image or design
  2. You transmit that to the selected company
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.]]>

RETURN TO SENDER

RETURN TO SENDER

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:

From The Atlantic:

“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.

cgk.ink can help navigate the turbulent evolution of ecommerce. Let’s talk more in depth about your latest project.

FBA Can Bankrupt You

FBA Can Bankrupt You

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.

In her excellent article in the January The Atlantic, Alana Semuels’ How To Lose Tens of Thousands of Dollars on Amazon, she describes how this scenario has allowed a very special type of “consultant” to thrive. 

 

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

 cgk.ink can help determine if sales channels are right for your online projects. Let’s chat and see what your options are.

BASTA

BASTA

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:

WHY?

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:
  1. 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?
  2. Are bullshit and charge more than what I can find online. 100% of the time.
  3. Are so enamored by touchscreens that it’s embarrassing. Don’t mimic Apple. It’s boring and homogenous. Y’all need some funk.
  4. The hired models have no clue (see: Brand Ambassador, if that’s a thing).
  5. Do not serve good cocktails.
  6. Any conflict or dispute can be disregarded, since, ya know, they’re temporal. It’s like quantum physics but with money.
  7. 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:

I have a bad taste in my mouth.

In perhaps a sign of the times we live in, both Amazon and Walmart found themselves in hot water after third-party sellers listed products advocating slavery and impeachment. Both instances inspired outrage and prompted the retailers to pull merchandise. Clothing retailer H&M also made a grave error when it modeled a black child in a sweatshirt reading, “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.” It later apologized and removed the product. AdWeek
Have you heard of AdBusters? No? Try the link. cgk.ink cuts through this bullshit in actionable, achievable goals. Let’s continue the conversation.]]>