Amazon Buys Shopify Competitor Selz

Selz is an Australia-based e-commerce platform for SMBs. It was acquired by Amazon in mid-January. Specific deal terms weren't disclosed by either company. Selz "enables [SMB] customers to sell on the web, on mobile, via social and via marketplaces." It also helps manage payments, promotions, fulfillment and returns. Amazon's third party marketplace continues to grow, with more than 2.5 million sellers. Selz would be an onramp.

Our take:

  • Shopify's big growth continues: $41B in Q4 GMV, though it's slowing.
  • Amazon's deal is a response to Shopify, though the company previously operated its own commerce platform (Webstore) through 2015.
  • Amazon regards Shopify as a threat, even though the two companies don't directly compete at this point.

'Thriving' Amazon Review-Fraud Market  

UK-based Which is a subscription publication like Consumer Reports, offering expert reviews and recommendations across merchandise categories. The company is just the latest to report on the rampant problem of fake reviews on Amazon. Company employees went "undercover" in December and signed up with sites that offered to deliver positive reviews for a price. Among other claims, Which found sites promising "Amazon’s Choice status on products in just 10-14 days."

Our take:

  • Amazon plays whack-a-mole with fake review brokers; however enforcement is lax and inconsistent despite what the company claims.
  • Some categories on Amazon are dominated by fake reviews.
  • The fake reviews problem exists on all major platforms. The issue isn't going away and will prompt regulatory and Congressional action.

Healthy Retail Sales Offer Temporary Reprieve for Stores

January retail sales significantly beat analyst expectations, growing 5.3% according to the US Commerce Department. That was "far higher" than anticipated and driven partly by the latest round of $600 stimulus checks. The favorable numbers followed consecutive months of consumer spending declines. Strong spending categories included furniture, home furnishings and even restaurants.

Our take:

  • The numbers reflect a strengthening economy; we'll see if it lasts absent stimulus.
  • Decent holiday sales have paused planned store closings for some retailers. Others are cutting jobs as part of an e-commerce "pivot."
  • Stores remain strategic but their role continues to evolve and will increasingly take on an e-commerce support function.

Short Takes

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