Amazon is testing new technologies in a bid to make handling packages and other work safer for employees, the e-commerce said Sunday, two weeks after a Washington Post analysis found Amazon warehouse workers suffer serious injuries at higher rates than other companies.
The company said in a post that its robotics and advanced technology teams are testing and developing new projects, like one project in early development that involves using motion-capture software to asses employees’ movement.
The company has a goal of reducing recordable incidents by half by 2025, Kevin Keck, Amazon’s worldwide director of advanced technology, said in the post.
“Something as simple as changing the position of handles on totes may help lower the risk of injuries to our employees at a massive scale,” Keck said.
A spokesperson for Amazon, whose founder Jeff Bezos owns the Post, declined to provide comment to the newspaper on specific data showing the rate of injuries, and did not dispute the Post’s method for analyzing injury rates.
The spokesperson said Amazon spent more than $1 billion last year on safety measures, and hired more than 6,200 employees to a group dedicated to workplace health and safety.
On Sunday, the company said it is testing one project with the goal of reducing the need for workers in fulfillment centers to reach up or bend down when fetching items, movements which could strain employees’ bodies.
The workstation system, nicknamed “Ernie,” would instead take totes off of a robotic shelf and use a robotic arm to deliver the items to employees.
A separate robotics project undergoing testing, nicknamed “Bert,” would autonomously move through Amazon warehouses and may have the ability to move heavy items, taking strain off of employees.
The company has come under pressure for the way it has operated its facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last fall, two Michigan lawmakers who made a surprise visit to an Amazon warehouse questioned the safety of Amazon facilities. Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Dingell, both Democrats, said they saw workers bypassing temperature checks and said they saw just one cleaning crew for an 850,000 square-foot warehouse, Bloomberg News reported.
Other reports have highlighted the dangers warehouse workers can face on the job. Last fall, the Center of Investigative Journalism’s publication Reveal found that Amazon recorded 14,000 serious injuries (defined as those requiring days off or job restrictions) in 2019. The rate Reveal’s Will Evans found of 7.7 series injuries per 100 employees was 33% higher than in 2016.
A spokesperson said Amazon’s top priority is the health and safety of its teams.
Employees at Amazon warehouses are nearly twice as likely to report serious injuries, according to the SOC report, which found that for every 100 employees there were 5.9 Amazon injuries reported last year, as compared to 2.5 at Walmart warehouses.
An Amazon spokesperson told Insider the company has been actively working to make fulfillment centers safer and avoid workplace injuries.
“We grew our dedicated workplace health and safety team to more than 6,200 employees and invested more than $1B in new safety measures in 2020 – expanding programs like WorkingWell, and implementing new technology and processes, PPE, and enhanced cleaning and sanitization to protect against COVID-19,” the spokesperson said. “While any incident is one too many, we are continuously learning and seeing improvements through ergonomics programs, guided exercises at employees’ workstations, mechanical assistance equipment, workstation setup and design, and forklift telematics and guardrails – to name a few.”
Though workplace injuries at Amazon were still higher than at other warehouses in 2020, the number of injuries slightly decreased. The number of incidents dropped around the same time the company briefly halted its performance-tracking system in order to give workers more time to meet COVID-19 safety standards, according to The Post.
Since the pandemic started, Amazon has continued to grow at a record pace. Last month, the company announced its plans to hire another 75,000 workers in the US and Canada for its fulfillment centers, as well as transportation sector.
Southeast Asia (SEA) has seen rapid development in the past decade, as countries become more urbanized, populations more connected and affluent, and technology more advanced. The region is set to be one of the largest and fastest-growing economies over the next few years, with the digital economy accelerating this growth.
One area that has gone from strength to strength is e-commerce. It currently accounts for less than 5% of total retail in SEA but is growing faster than developed markets like China and the US. With rising connectivity, a young population, and a widening middle class, the industry has plenty of headroom for growth.
So it is not surprising that more businesses are going online to capture a slice of this growth. But in a highly diverse and digital-first region, many brands may find it difficult to establish and grow their online presence. Instead of going at it alone, brands should leverage the ecosystems and reach of platforms, so they can focus on the things that matter- growing their business.
Platforms offer a gateway to mobile consumers
The digital revolution in SEA is just beginning and mobile is at the heart, where the majority access the internet mainly via mobile devices. The global pandemic further accelerated mobile digital adoption and consumption. Google estimates that 1 in 3 digital service consumers in SEA are new as e-commerce, food deliveries, and other online services become essential, and 94% plan to stick to these habits even after the pandemic.
A key demand driver is convenience. There is an app for almost everything in SEA and consumers want to shop and access essential services with a few taps of the smartphone. For retail, consumer traffic is flowing to platforms as people can now buy everything they need from luxury products to electronics to groceries all in one app. For them, platforms are a means to “window shop” virtually at any time, as they compare products at scale and shop for all their needs at one destination. In short, convenience is fast becoming the norm.
SEA consumers are also amongst the most engaged in the world, spending more time on mobile than anywhere else, with most on social media apps. For brands to connect and build loyalty with customers means to continually engage them with exciting mobile experiences.
For example, POND’S launched its AI-powered chatbot on Shopee to give users real-time skincare analysis and recommendations, resulting in two times better conversions. Similarly, L’Oreal launched an immersive AI and AR-powered digital experience and complemented the experience with livestreams and mini games, all within the Shopee app, to deepen engagement with consumers for a more personalized online retail experience.
This seamless mobile experience allows brands to focus on finding innovative ways to engage their customers while also enabling higher sales conversions through its integrated ecosystem, which allows one-stop convenience from discovery to delivery.
Brands can hyper-localize at scale with platforms
Though often seen as a bloc, SEA is one of the most diverse regions in the world with a rich mosaic of cultures, languages, ethnicities, beliefs, and nationalities. In Indonesia alone, census data shows that over 800 native languages are spoken in the country.
Countries are also different when it comes to economic conditions. On one hand, Singapore is a relatively affluent and urban city, while countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines are still developing with larger rural populations.
This means that brands cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach in developing their digital ecosystems. The vast majority of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that offer personally relevant recommendations, but scaling these efforts can be difficult and costly.
Through the right platforms, brands can now do so easily. The most successful platforms take a hyper local approach, regardless of market, to ensure that everything from the app design to product selection to payment methods are tailored to local audiences. This not only helps to build trust, but also allows brands to more effectively target specific audiences. By analysing the behaviors of millions of users daily, such platforms can also identify consumer insights and trends that allow brands to optimize their marketing or make it more efficient to test a new product or grow a specific segment.
Beyond data and tools, platforms also provide experienced teams that add value to key but often “hidden” aspects of e-commerce such as partnerships or customer service, that are vital to a brand’s relationship with its customers. This allows brands to offer a complete end-to-end experience even if they lack resources or expertise.
Infrastructure support helps brands to connect the dots
SEA’s geography and demography present unique infrastructural challenges to e-commerce. In many countries, fragmented geographies impact delivery reach and timeliness. Countries like Indonesia and the Philippines comprise thousands of islands, stretching delivery times and making it more costly to buy and sell online. Outside of big cities, road and logistics networks are also underdeveloped, further slowing delivery efficiency. But infrastructure is catching up and new solutions are emerging to address the region’s unique needs.
This is both a challenge and opportunity for brands going digital. Consumers in non-metro and rural areas formed the bulk of the region’s new digital consumers in 2020 and will drive e-commerce demand in the future. Shopee observed similar trends in the year-end shopping season, with shopping activity growing significantly in places like West Java in Indonesia and Nonthaburi in Thailand. Brands that can reliably reach and meet the needs of rural shoppers will have an edge.
Fortunately, there is a wave of logistics support emerging to fill delivery gaps from first to last mile, including parcel dropoff services that connect businesses to logistics providers who can ship swiftly and reliably. The key for businesses is again to work with local partners who know the lay of the land and have the right infrastructure to help them achieve the right mix of reliability, speed, and reach. For example, by partnering with local logistics partners throughout SEA, Shopee has cut delivery lead times in East Malaysia in half and can ensure nationwide deliveries in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
There is a sea of opportunity for online retail but businesses do not have to swim alone. To do more and go further, it is important to team up with the right platforms and partners. I for one am excited to see where we can go together in the future.
Bill Miller, a star fund manager who was brought to his knees during the financial crisis, has staged a remarkable comeback and become a billionaire thanks to Amazon and bitcoin.
Journalist William Green interviewed the value investor for his new book, “Richer, Wiser, Happier: How the World’s Greatest Investors Win in Markets and Life,” and for a recent Barron’s article.
Miller beat the benchmark S&P 500 index for 15 straight years as manager of Legg Mason Value Trust. However, his fortunes soured when he made leveraged bets on Bear Stearns, Freddie Mac, and other hard-hit financial stocks in 2008, but the Federal Reserve failed to swoop in and help as much as he expected.
As a result, Miller’s flagship fund tumbled 55% that year, and an investor exodus slashed his assets under management from about $77 billion to $800 million, Miller told Green. The heavy losses, coupled with a recent divorce settlement, meant Miller’s personal fortune shrunk by around 90% in a matter of months.
Luckily for Miller, he had started investing in Amazon soon after it went public in 1997, and had boosted his stake in the e-commerce group after the dot-com bubble burst. Although he was forced to sell some of his shares when investors pulled money out of his funds in 2008, he also snapped up bullish call options on Amazon stock when it tanked that year.
Amazon shares, on a split-adjusted basis, have skyrocketed from less than $40 in November 2008 to $3,300 today. Miller told Green last year that the position made up 83% of his personal portfolio, and he was likely the largest individual shareholder of Amazon “whose last name isn’t Bezos” – excluding MacKenzie Scott, who divorced Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and dropped his last name in 2019.
Miller’s bitcoin bet has now surpassed his Amazon stake in value, he told Green in the recent Barron’s interview. He started buying when it cost $200 to $300 a coin, and his average cost is about $500, he said. Bitcoin has surged by more than 600% since the start of last year to around $50,000, suggesting Miller has scored a roughly 10,000% gain on his investment.
Miller told Green that thanks to his Amazon and bitcoin wagers, he’s now a billionaire.
The Miller Value Partners chief remains bullish on both assets. He expects Amazon stock to double in the next three years as it expands its cloud-hosting, advertising, business-to-business, and private-label operations. He’s also confident that bitcoin will rise 10-fold in value as demand outstrips supply, and investors recognize it’s “far superior to gold,” he told Green.
While Miller managed to hold Amazon and bitcoin through their highs and lows in recent years, his fund virtually eliminated its GameStop stake in 2018. If his team hadn’t given up on the video-game retailer, their stake would have been worth $800 million at the height of the short squeeze in January, and more than $250 million today.
Jeff Bezos recently published his 24th and final annual letter to Amazon shareholders as the company’s CEO.
The e-commerce group’s founder and future executive chairman has shared his views on invention, failure, customer obsession, long-term thinking, and other subjects in his yearly missives. He’s also reflected on what he’s learned as Amazon’s leader, and what others can take away from his company’s phenomenal success.
Here are Bezos’ 25 best quotes from his shareholder letters, lightly edited and condensed for clarity:
1. “This is Day 1 for the Internet and, if we execute well, for Amazon.com.” (1997)
2. “It’s not easy to work here (when I interview people I tell them, ‘You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three’), but we are working to build something important, something that matters to our customers, something that we can all tell our grandchildren about. Such things aren’t meant to be easy.” (1997)
3. “There is no rest for the weary. I constantly remind our employees to be afraid, to wake up every morning terrified. Not of our competition, but of our customers. We consider them to be loyal to us – right up until the second that someone else offers them a better service.” (1998)
4. “We are doubly blessed. We have a market-size unconstrained opportunity in an area where the underlying foundational technology we employ improves every day. That is not normal.” (1999)
5. “As the famed investor Benjamin Graham said, ‘In the short term, the stock market is a voting machine; in the long term, it’s a weighing machine.’ Clearly there was a lot of voting going on in the boom year of ’99 – and much less weighing. We have our heads down working to build a heavier and heavier company.” (2000)
6. “Long-term thinking is both a requirement and an outcome of true ownership. Owners are different from tenants. I know of a couple who rented out their house, and the family who moved in nailed their Christmas tree to the hardwood floors instead of using a tree stand. Expedient, I suppose, and admittedly these were particularly bad tenants, but no owner would be so short-sighted. Similarly, many investors are effectively short-term tenants, turning their portfolios so quickly they are really just renting the stocks that they temporarily ‘own.'” (2003)
7. “We started by setting ourselves the admittedly audacious goal of improving upon the physical book. We did not choose that goal lightly. Anything that has persisted in roughly the same form and resisted change for 500 years is unlikely to be improved easily.” (2007) – on Amazon’s decision to create the Kindle e-reader.
8. “Missionaries build better products.” (2007)
9. “At a fulfillment center recently, one of our Kaizen experts asked me, ‘I’m in favor of a clean fulfillment center, but why are you cleaning? Why don’t you eliminate the source of dirt?’ I felt like the Karate Kid.” (2008)
10. “Start with customers, and work backwards. Listen to customers, but don’t just listen to customers – also invent on their behalf.” (2009)
11. “Our passion for pioneering will drive us to explore narrow passages, and, unavoidably, many will turn out to be blind alleys. But – with a bit of good fortune – there will also be a few that open up into broad avenues.” (2012)
12. “A dreamy business offering has at least four characteristics. Customers love it, it can grow to very large size, it has strong returns on capital, and it’s durable in time – with the potential to endure for decades. When you find one of these, don’t just swipe right, get married.” (2014)
13. “Our business model for original content is unique. I’m pretty sure we’re the first company to have figured out how to make winning a Golden Globe pay off in increased sales of power tools and baby wipes!” (2014)
14. “Failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment.” (2015)
15. “Outsized returns often come from betting against conventional wisdom, and conventional wisdom is usually right. Given a 10% chance of a 100 times payoff, you should take that bet every time. But you’re still going to be wrong nine times out of 10. We all know that if you swing for the fences, you’re going to strike out a lot, but you’re also going to hit some home runs. The difference between baseball and business, however, is that no matter how well you connect with the ball, the most runs you can get is four. In business, every once in a while, when you step up to the plate, you can score 1,000 runs. This long-tailed distribution of returns is why it’s important to be bold. Big winners pay for so many experiments.” (2015)
16. “No matter how good an entrepreneur you are, you’re not going to build an all-composite 787 in your garage startup – not one you’d want to fly in anyway. (2015) – on the power of scale.
17. “Many characterized AWS as a bold – and unusual – bet when we started. ‘What does this have to do with selling books?’ We could have stuck to the knitting. I’m glad we didn’t. Or did we? Maybe the knitting has as much to do with our approach as the arena.” (2015) – suggesting Amazon applied the same strategy to cloud services as it did to online retail.
18. “Our growth has happened fast. 20 years ago, I was driving boxes to the post office in my Chevy Blazer and dreaming of a forklift.” (2016)
19. “Staying in Day 1 requires you to experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings, and double down when you see customer delight. A customer-obsessed culture best creates the conditions where all of that can happen.” (2016)
20. “One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent. Their expectations are never static – they go up. It’s human nature. We didn’t ascend from our hunter-gatherer days by being satisfied. People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday’s ‘wow’ quickly becomes today’s ‘ordinary.'” (2017)
21. “The biggest needle-movers will be things that customers don’t know to ask for. We have to tap into our own inner imagination about what’s possible.” (2018)
22. “If you had gone to a customer in 2013 and said, ‘Would you like a black, always-on cylinder in your kitchen about the size of a Pringles can that you can talk to and ask questions, that also turns on your lights and plays music?’ I guarantee you they’d have looked at you strangely and said ‘No, thank you.'” – underscoring that customers didn’t know they wanted Amazon Echo smart speakers until their release. (2018)
23. “If you want to be successful in business (in life, actually), you have to create more than you consume. Your goal should be to create value for everyone you interact with. Any business that doesn’t create value for those it touches, even if it appears successful on the surface, isn’t long for this world. It’s on the way out.” (2020)
24. “We all know that distinctiveness – originality – is valuable. We are all taught to ‘be yourself.’ What I’m really asking you to do is to embrace and be realistic about how much energy it takes to maintain that distinctiveness. The world wants you to be typical – in a thousand ways, it pulls at you. Don’t let it happen.” (2020)
25. “Be kind, be original, create more than you consume, and never, never, never let the universe smooth you into your surroundings. It remains Day 1.” (2020)
Amazon is installing a system that allows customers to pay for goods using the palm of their hand at Whole Foods stores in the Seattle area.
The company announced the payment system, called Amazon One, would be available at its Whole Foods store on Madison Broadway on Wednesday. The new system will be available across seven Seattle stores in the coming months.
The payment system works by scanning people’s palms to identify distinguishing characteristics like wrinkles, veins, and bones. An individual’s palm acts as a unique signature that is tied to their credit or debit card at the participating stores.
Shoppers can enroll in the new payment system at an Amazon One kiosk, or using one of the devices at the Seattle Amazon stores.
The sign-up process takes about one minute, according to the company. It requires shoppers to insert their credit or debit card and hover their hand face-down over the palm reader.
The kiosk then goes through a series of prompts that ties the card to the individual’s distinct handprint. Customers can use both palms or even tie their Amazon Prime account to their palm print, in order to get special Prime services at Whole Foods.
Amazon said the palm scanner has multiple security measures for protecting shoppers’ identity and the information is stored separately from customers’ other data.
“The Amazon One device is protected by multiple security controls, and palm images are never stored on the Amazon One device,” it said on Amazon’s website. “The images are encrypted and sent to a highly secure area we custom-built for Amazon One in the cloud where we create your palm signature.”
The palm print can also be deleted if a customer chooses to deactivate their Amazon One ID or does not use the service for over two years.
That’s the big, unanswered question at the heart of his 12.9% ownership stake in the company – an investment he made well before GameStop became a meme stock.
Cohen, who cofounded Chewy and acted as CEO before it sold to PetSmart for $3.35 billion in 2017, does not have a background in the video game industry. His claim to fame is outfoxing Amazon at its own game – e-commerce – in a specific category: pets. That’s an especially meaningful claim to fame when it comes to Wall Street, which saw Cohen’s involvement in the company as a reason to buy the ailing retailer’s stock before Reddit found it.
But Cohen is no casual investor in GameStop – he’s the chairman of its board, and an activist investor who has successfully lobbied the company to follow his advice several times thus far. He is clearly in this for the long term.
Though the lingering question of “Why GameStop?” remains unanswered, we know a lot about Cohen’s plans for the future of the company.
1. Cohen wants GameStop to become a technology company, with a focus on ecommerce over brick-and-retail stores.
Cohen’s investment firm, RC Ventures, owns 12.9% of GameStop. That stake makes it the second-largest single shareholder of GameStop.
Those shares cost tens of millions of dollars in 2020, and they put Cohen in a position to more directly engage with the company’s leadership. But those private conversations apparently didn’t go very well.
“GameStop’s leadership should immediately conduct a strategic review of the business,” he said, “and share a credible plan for seizing the tremendous opportunities in the rapidly-growing gaming sector.”
The letter, overwhelmingly, focused on the company’s need to transition to ecommerce.
“GameStop’s challenges stem from internal intransigence and an unwillingness to rapidly embrace the digital economy,” the letter said. “GameStop needs to evolve into a technology company that delights gamers and delivers exceptional digital experiences – not remain a video game retailer that overprioritizes its brick-and-mortar footprint and stumbles around the online ecosystem.”
Throughout his letter, Cohen directly criticizes the company’s leadership – both its executive suite and its board of directors, to whom the letter is addressed.
GameStop CEO and board member George Sherman, “appears committed to a twentieth-century focus on physical stores and walk-in sales, despite the transition to an always-on digital world,” Cohen said, and the board lacks “the type of strategic vision” necessary for GameStop, “to pivot toward becoming a technology-driven business that excels in the gaming and digital experience worlds.”
That criticism appeared to have a major impact, as GameStop announced in early January that Cohen and two of his former Chewy lieutenants would become new members of the board. Soon after, Cohen was put in charge of a committee created to reshape GameStop and appointed the chairman of its board.
2. He’s swapping the company’s current leadership, both its board and c-suite, for former Amazon and Chewy leaders.
That includes CEO George Sherman, who is stepping down in the near future, and CFO Jim Bell, who was suddenly forced out of his role at the company after the board of directors “lost faith” in him, according to a person familiar with the decision who spoke with Insider. At the same time, a gaggle of former Amazon and Chewy leaders have been elected in their place.
Similarly, the company’s board of directors is being completely flipped – at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in June, it plans to elect a small group of Cohen’s colleagues to the board. And Cohen is expected to be elected chairman of the board.
In the last six months, Cohen has completely reshaped the leadership of GameStop.
3. The potential future of GameStop: online trade-ins.
Game trade-ins, and their subsequent resale, are the lifeblood of GameStop.
In September 2020, when Cohen initially purchased a significant chunk of the company’s shares, he privately proposed a plan to the board to focus GameStop on e-commerce opportunities.
One example of those opportunities is tied to GameStop’s core business: reselling used games.
Cohen reportedly proposed an online version of the retailer’s (in)famous game trade-in program.
During those talks, he proposed a major expansion of GameStop’s online footprint, according to Bloomberg. Beyond just games, GameStop’s online store would offer “a wide range of merchandise,” the report said, and prioritize fast shipping.
Cohen has yet to publicly spell out his specific plans, and representatives repeatedly declined requests for comment.
Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (email@example.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.
Wish, the popular e-commerce platform, is known for its affordable products. You can buy clothes, computer parts, furniture, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
However, like any shopping site, you might occasionally have issues with an order. If this happens – maybe an item arrived defective, or you just never received your purchase – there are a few ways to get in touch with Wish’s customer service team.
How to contact Wish customer service
The best way to fix issues with your account, or with multiple orders at once, is to call or email Wish support.
To speak with a Wish customer service representative over the phone, call their customer support number: 1-800-266-0172.
Contact Wish via the app
The Wish app offers a 24-hour support chat feature and support prompts for certain issues.
1. In the Wish app, tap the icon with three lines at the bottom-right of the screen.
2. For general questions, scroll down to the “Support” section and tap “Customer Support.”
3. Tap the prompt that best matches your issue. Options include “Track an item,” “Help with a recent order,” and “Update payment info.” Here, you can also view Wish’s refund and return policy.
4. If you want to get help with something else, or aren’t sure what you need, tap “Contact Support” at the bottom of the page. A chat box with a customer support robot will pop up. You can interact with the robot by tapping preset responses. If you can’t fix your issue here, try the email and phone methods above.
How to contact Wish for help with a specific order
Wish notes that for issues regarding past orders, their app is the quickest way to reach the support team and have your issue resolved.
1. In the Wish app, tap the icon with three lines at the bottom-right of the screen.
2. If your issue is related to a specific item you purchased or an entire order, tap “Order History” in the Account section.
3. Navigate to the item or order in question, then tap “Customer Support.” You’ll be given all the options to contact Wish about it.
Tock, a restaurant reservation system known for booking prepaid premium dining experiences, has been purchased by Squarespace for more than $400 million, the website builder announced late Wednesday.
“E-commerce within the restaurant and hospitality industries is a large and growing market opportunity,” Anthony Casalena, Squarespace founder and CEO, said in a statement. “I’ve long admired Tock’s vision to reimagine how reservation-based businesses connect with their customers.”
Tock was founded by Nick Kokonas, co-owner of The Alinea Group, which operates fine dining restaurants in Chicago including the Michelin-starred Alinea.
Kokonas, a well-known critic of third-party reservation systems like OpenTable, created an early iteration of Tock a decade ago to reduce losses tied to last-minute no-shows. In 2019, he told trade publication Restaurant Hospitality that he was losing $800,000 a year from cancellations and no-shows.
Tock required prepaid reservations. In 2014, he opened Tock’s prepaid reservation system to other restaurants. Eventually, Tock expanded its platform to more directly compete with Resy and OpenTable by adding standard no-fee reservations and table management for restaurants.
During the pandemic, Tock launched Tock to Go, which allows restaurants to handle takeout orders without relying on third-party delivery platforms.
“We realized that the only option for any type of restaurant, even the fine-dining ones, was carry-out operations,” Kokonas told Insider in a previous interview.
Tock added carry-out and delivery options, take-home experiences, vouchers for future reservations, and groceries.
Today, Tock works with more than 7,000 restaurants, wineries, galleries, farms, boutiques, and even car dealerships. To date, Tock has processed over $1 billion in prepaid experiences.
In a statement, Kokonas said Squarespace and Tock share the same mission of delivering “a best-in-class solution to millions of entrepreneurs and small businesses around the world.”
Earlier this month, Squarespace raised about $300 million in its latest funding round, valuing the website building and hosting company at $10 billion. The raise comes less than two months after the company confidentially filed paperwork for a US stock market listing, according to Reuters.
At first glance, Austin Li Jiaqi looks like the boy-next-door: he’s always clean-shaven and typically dressed in earth-toned, well-pressed button-down shirts. But when his stream on Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao goes live, a different side of him comes out to play.
“We’re starting now!” he claps and proclaims loudly, as millions of followers and ardent fans pour in to see him try lipsticks and other beauty products live.
“Are you ready to buy, buy, and buy?”
China’s $38.6 billion beauty industry is the second largest in the world behind the US (which rakes in an estimated $56 billion annually) and is on trend to be the biggest market by 2023, according to the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business.
In the last several years, Li’s built a following of more than 7 million on the Chinese social media platform Weibo and more than 35 million on TikTok. His recommendations can be the difference between a product selling out or sitting on the shelves collecting dust.
The live-streaming sales powerhouse has come a long way from his humble beginnings as a L’Oreal shop assistant in Nanchang, a small city in southern China. He now holds joint live-streams with Chinese singers and actors and has become a society fixture at political conferences, beauty conventions, and gala events for luxury brands and magazines.
Helped along by a full staff of assistants and live-streaming technicians, he rattles off his signature catchphrase, “OMG! Sisters, buy this!” and hawks products on his marathon live-streams from a snazzy studio in Shanghai.
What sets Li apart from other streamers appears to be his cutting – and often snarky – reviews of every product he dislikes, be it Calvin Klein or Chanel. His friendly, peppy tone of voice, combined with how he seems unafraid of offending luxury brands and major retailers with his scathing takes, puts him in stark contrast to other Chinese beauty streamers, who avoid treading on thin ice where key industry players are concerned.
Weibo users are especially intrigued by Li’s often vivid descriptions of his products. Coral blush isn’t “peach”: it’s the ripe fruit of summer, tender to the touch, a shade that’ll make boys stop in their tracks. That necklace isn’t just “shiny – it reminds him of the stars, the shimmering of a million galaxies.
And then there’s the lipstick.
From 2017 to 2018, Li cemented his position as the country’s “口红一哥” (or “lipstick king”): first, when he tried on 380 lipsticks in a seven-hour marathon stream, and then when he sold 15,000 lipsticks in 5 minutes, beating Alibaba founder Jack Ma in a one-on-one selling competition.
The South China Morning Post also reported that in 2019, Li set a Guinness record for “the most lipstick applications to models in 30 seconds,” putting lipstick on four different models in just 30 seconds.
Most recently, Li was named one of the “Time100 Next 2021”, a list of emerging leaders around the world who are “shaping the future.”
Little is known about Li’s private life.
Despite social media chatter about a rumored romance with his long-time assistant, Li maintains that he has “no time to date.”
“I do 389 broadcasts in 365 days. I don’t have time to eat or sleep, so do you think I have a personal life?” Li told news portal Sohu in 2020.
Li notoriously keeps to himself, but in 2020, the Chinese press reported that he purchased a swanky three-story penthouse in private apartment complex Yunjin Oriental, which is located in the middle of a glitzy riverside district just off the Shanghai Bund.
Those lips don’t lie: Li’s path to becoming China’s emperor of e-commerce
Li’s business model is simple: brands allot a certain amount of stock for Li to sell on his stream, and he takes a cut for his services. But the sheer volume of the items that Lee sells, coupled with the line-up of brands that want to foster a working relationship with him, has made him a force to be reckoned with in China’s e-commerce market.
Products are sold in real-time during marathon live-streams that can last from anywhere between six and eight hours. These days, Li sells everything from skincare products to household appliances and snacks. Customers are motivated to lock in impulse buys as Li counts down from 10, making gleeful announcements on his stream when thousands of products sell out in a matter of seconds.
But just as it might be the pinnacle of success for a brand to get a shout-out from Li, some might prefer he leave them alone.
Whether brands like it or not, Li’s endorsement can have a huge impact on sales.
In 2020, it was reported by Chinese media Jing Daily that a five-minute segment on Li’s stream caused the sales of a widely-anticipated 24-shade line of lipsticks from Hermès to tank in China.
When reviewing the Rouge Hermès line on his Taobao stream, he told his 12 million viewers that the shades looked “cheap.”
“There’s no soul in these colors,” Li said, sighing. “It’s unflattering, just like the shades your old mother would use.”
A clip of his Hermés live-stream went viral on Weibo, as the hashtag #李佳琦的表情 (translated: The Look On Li Jiaqi’s Face) trended, praising him for his honest – albeit cutting – reviews.
His bluntness makes him a standout in a crowded e-commerce market and wins him a devoted cache of supporters.
“Never change, Jiaqi,” a fan wrote on social media after the Hermés stream. “This is why we know we can rely on you!”