News Cart for Jan 17 + Crafting a Perfect Weekly Routine

Hey there!

I’ve got a great round-up this week:  Google plans to kill cookies by 2022, Amazon makes a surprising move toward de-emphasizing their own private label products, Amazon and FedEx improve their relationship and Google purchased who?!?

And if that’s not exciting enough……

Check out this fascinating video about the next chapter in human space exploration.  If you’re still not impressed you have wildly unrealistic expectations you need to work on.

On the podcast edition I also talk about my journey toward crafting the ideal weekly schedule to maximize productivity and fun.  You can listen here.

Hope you enjoy!

– Andrew

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

In the News

Google Plans to Nix Third-Party Cookies in Chrome by 2022

  • Part of its open-source Privacy Sandbox project aimed at targeting ads while protecting user privacy
  • Users must be part of a sufficiently large group to receive targeted ads
  • Chrome will begin limiting insecure cross-site tracking next month

Google Introduces New Shopping Section in Search Results (Hat tip to Carson McComas)

  • Displays links to popular clothing, shoes and accessories from stores across the web
  • Can filter by style, department and size, or look at multiple images of a product
  • Google indexes, organizes and updates information from more than 1 million online shops

Amazon Stopped Featuring Its Own Brands in Search Results

  • Amazon quietly withdrew its “Top Rated From Our Brands” widget
  • AmazonBasics products still appear as organic search results but are no longer featured

U.S., China Sign Trade Agreement

  • China to buy an extra $200 billion in American products over the next two years
  • Leaves in place tariffs on about $370 billion in Chinese goods (three-quarters of Chinese imports)
  • Includes trade-secret protections and a commitment from China not to devalue its currency

Amazon Lifts Ban on FedEx Ground for 3P Marketplace Sellers

  • Vendors can once again use FedEx Ground for Prime shipments after abrupt ban in December
  • FedEx’s services are consistently meeting on-time delivery requirements, Amazon says
  • Companies let two shipping contracts totaling about $900 million in revenue for FedEx expire last year

Shopify Launches Starter Loans for U.S. Merchants

  • Shopify Capital offers initial $200 loans to new merchants in 14 states
  • Loans repaid as a fixed percentage of the store’s daily sales and “milestone” payments every 60 days

More Brands Are Leaving Amazon, but the Strategy Could Backfire

  •  IKEA joins a growing list of brands that have ended a pilot program with Amazon that began in 2018

Google Buys E-Commerce Startup Pointy for $163M

  • Dublin-based Pointy helps physical stores list their products online, no data entry required
  • Merchants can plug a Pointy box into their barcode scanners or install an app on their POS systems

Interesting Things Online

How We Are Going to the Moon (hat tip to ECF member Carson McComas) – NASA explains Artemis, its next chapter of lunar exploration

Casper’s Business Model (hat tip to ECF member Lars Hundley) – Writer and podcast host Derek Thompson breaks down Casper’s apparent business model

Nathan Barry’s Year in Review – As someone who personally values blending family, business and adventure I thought this was a pretty impressive 2019.  Nicely done, Nathan!

Tech Parents are Increasingly Homeschooling (Old, but Interesting) – A look at how tech-savvy parents are increasingly homeschooling their kids.

Top Forum Discussions

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 Top Jobs

(Compelling opportunities from the eCommerceFuel Job Board. Find your dream job or post your own job opening right here.)

  • Growth Marketing Specialist | LittleOnes | Auckland, New Zealand or Remote – One perk of joining this remote-first team is a paid-for company retreat in Singapore

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Big Changes for 2020 + News Cart for Jan 3rd

Happy New Year!

Well, it’s 2020 and we still don’t have flying cars.  That’s a letdown.

But on the bright side I do have a solid round-up for you in this week’s News Cart to kick-off the year.

A few highlights:  surprising news from TOMS Shoes, hiring contractors is getting more complicated in California, shipping your bowling ball collection is now going to be waaay more expensive and can you build a billion-dollar eCommerce darling while still getting home for dinner with the kids?  Why yes, yes you can.

Check out the podcast version for an extended discussion on how I’m rolling out and structuring profit sharing in my business + some new changes to the ECF podcast this year.


– Andrew

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

In the News

TOMS Shoes Creditors to Take Over the Company (hat tip to ECF member Philip Pages)

  • Group of creditors will take over from founder Blake Mycoskie and Bain Capital in exchange for restructuring the company’s debt
  • TOMS struggled to compete with lowering prices as novelty of its charitable model wore off
  • Company would not have been able to repay a $300 million loan due next year without negotiating with creditors

  • Law makes it harder for companies to categorize workers as independent contractors vs. more expensive employees
  • AB 5 took effect Jan. 1, despite lawsuits from gig companies, freelance journalists and truck drivers, who won a temporary exemption
  • Re-classification of contractors to employees can cost companies 30% or more in additional benefits and pay
  • CCPA requires businesses to be transparent about what personal data they’re collecting and why
  • Consumers must be able to easily opt out of their data being sold without retaliation
  • Enforcement to begin after a six-month grace period

Fedex and UPS Raise Fees on Oversized Packages

  • Both carriers are tacking on $24 fee for packages over 50lbs
  • The previous threshold for oversized package weight was 70lbs
  • Get up to 1 month of Volusion store sales
  • Interest is charged weekly at a rate between 0.35% and 1%
  • Planned trade-deal to be signed on January 15th
  • Called a “Phase One” deal with potential a second phase/agreement to follow
  • Full text has not been shared but likely a roll back of tariffs and China agreeing to purchase certain U.S. goods
  • Billionaire Mukesh Ambani seeks to take on Amazon in India
  • Reliance Industries begins testing online shopping platform JioMart in Mumbai neighborhoods
  • Attempting to leverage thousands of existing neighborhood stores and shops for fulfillment

Interesting Reads

Sales-Tax Ruling Strains Small Online Sellers – The WSJ features the increased strain sales tax laws are putting on small sellers in the U.S. (pay wall; features ECF member Nicole Snow of Darn Good Yarn)

Building a Car-Free Neighborhood from Scratch – A company in Arizona is building a 1,000 person Community around the concept of no cars.

The Man Who Built Shopify Gets Home at 5:30pm – Shocking, but apparently true:  Tobi Lutke – the founder and CEO of Shopify – on how he was able to build Shopify into the beast it’s become and still get home in time for dinner each night.

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News Cart + Planning Tips for 2020

Merry Thursday, ECFers!

Have you noticed an uptick in abandoned shopping carts this holiday season? You’re not alone: A study found that roughly two-thirds of online shoppers during Black Friday and Cyber Monday were actually “jingle bots.” Ho ho … oh.

It may lift your spirits to learn that Amazon has opened its Vine program to third-party sellers, and the U.S. and China struck a preliminary trade deal halting 15% tariffs set to hit many consumer goods before the holidays. Get the details below or in this week’s podcast.

In shipping news, Amazon blocked sellers from using FedEx ground for Prime shipments, and UPS expanded its express services across 40 countries. Craigslist boasted some growth of its own, launching its first official mobile app. (Seriously, Craigslist, where have you been since the mid-’90s?)

In the podcast I also get into how I’m prepping for 2020, as well as a few tax strategies you may not be familiar with that can save you some coin.

Wishing you all a Happy Holiday and a Merry Christmas!

– Andrew

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

In the News

Amazon Vine Rolls Out to Third-Party Sellers (membership required; hat tip to Judah Bergman)

  • Many 3P sellers have been able to add products to the Vine program
  • It’s currently free for up to five products at a time, each of which must have fewer than 30 reviews

‘Jingle Bots’ Jam Online Shopping Carts to Use Up Stock and Frustrate Customers

  • An in-depth study found that only one-third of Black Friday/Cyber Monday online shoppers were real people
  • The rest were so-called “jingle bots” designed to disrupt e-commerce operations so that genuine shoppers give up or shop elsewhere
  • Study also found that 45 percent of traffic on product pages was made up of bots

What Is Actually in the U.S.-China ‘Phase One’ Trade Deal? 

  • The phase-one deal temporarily suspends planned 15% tariffs on nearly $160 billion of Chinese-made goods such as smartphones, clothing and toys just ahead of the holidays
  • In return, China canceled retaliatory tariffs and purportedly promised to buy large quantities of U.S. soybeans, poultry and other agricultural products
  • The U.S. maintains 25% tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese imports, and halved the tariff rate on $120 billion worth of Chinese goods to 7.5%

Amazon Blocks Sellers From Using FedEx Ground for Prime Shipments

  • Amazon cited a decline in performance heading into the final stretch of the holiday shopping season
  • FedEx and other shippers face weather difficulties and fewer shipping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year
  • Ban starts this week and will last “until the delivery performances of these ship methods improves,” according to an email Amazon sent merchants

Craigslist Launches App for iPhone 

  • Craigslist joins the tech age with its first official mobile app!

Interesting Reads

Imitating Amazon: E-Commerce Battle Bolstered by Companies Mimicking the Market Leader – “From shipping startups to warehouse providers, a virtual network aimed at competing with Amazon is growing in the company’s long shadow”

Lessons From Spending a Quarter Billion on Facebook (Tweetstorm) – Faheem Siddiqi shares the commonalities he sees among successful DTC brands from his time advertising on Facebook.  Hat tip to Drew Sanocki.

Individual Coverage HRA (ICHRA) vs. QSEHRA: How Do They Compare? – Struggling to figure out the best way to reimburse your employees for their own healthcare without worrying about the IRS coming a’ knocking?  A HRA is probably the answer but the introduction of a new type (ICHRA) makes the decision a bit more complex.

Cool Stuff My Friends Are Doing

Live Your Mission Podcast — My friend Peter Awad recently launched a podcast about living out your mission intentionally.  He was kind enough to invite me on for an episode where, among other things, you can watch me nearly pass out eating insanely hot jerky.

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News Cart for December 4th

Whew! We’ve survived another Black Friday/Cyber Monday. How did online merchants fare this year? Unsurprisingly, the trend toward e-commerce continues, with digital sales up nearly 20 percent. In a first, Black Friday topped Cyber Monday as the busiest day for online shopping.

Shopify posted its own Black Friday/Cyber Monday stats, touting $2.9 billion in total sales compared to last year’s $1.8 billion.

“This was officially the biggest direct-to-consumer #BlackFriday of all time,” Shopify COO Harvey Finkelstein tweeted.

After you’ve sufficiently geeked out on holiday stats, be sure to check out the rest of the ECF News Cart. We cover Tesla’s futuristic Cybertruck, Mastercard’s ban on automatic billing after free trials, and Amazon’s policy changes for requesting reviews. Plus, don’t miss Amazon getting called out for copying a pair of Allbirds’ wool sneakers.


– Andrew

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

In the News

E-commerce Killed It on Black Friday/Cyber Monday

  • Online Black Friday sales were a record $7.4 billion, up 20% from 2018
  • Online shoppers spent a record $9.4 billion on Cyber Monday, also up nearly 20%
  • Shopify merchants booked $2.9 billion in total sales over the long weekend, 69% of sales via mobile
  • Brick-and-mortar sales were less sunny:  Traffic down 2.1% and overall sales declined 1.6%.

Mastercard Bans Automatic Billing After Free Trials

  • Merchants need to get customers’ approval before automatically charging after free trials end
  • First they must send an email or text instructing customers on how to cancel the trial
  • From then on, each payment must be followed with a receipt that includes those same instructions

Amazon Adds ‘Request a Review’ Button (Hat tip to ECF member Liran Hirschkorn)

  • Amazon has rolled out a  new “Request a Review” button which emails customers with a standard review request
  • Launched close to new “Communication Guidelines” severely limiting how sellers can communicate with buyers
  • A step toward Amazon more tightly controlling (or removing) seller’s ability to solicit reviews independently

Allbirds Calls Out Amazon for Mimicking $95 Wool Sneaker – (Hat tip to ECF member Tad Swanson)

  • Amazon sells its private-label look-alike for one-third the price of the $95 Wool Runner
  • Allbirds’ co-founders urged Amazon in a Medium post to steal their eco-friendly materials as well

Tesla Rolls Out Electric ‘Cybertruck’

  • The electric pickup has a range of 250 to 500 miles, can seat six, and the base model starts at $39,900
  • Body made of “practically bulletproof” stainless steel with windows of armored—but not shatterproof!—glass
  • Click here to watch Tesla’s Cybertruck event in five minutes

Top Forum Discussions

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