Walmart launches two new credit cards offering 5% back on digital purchases

Walmart is partnering with Capital One to launch a new credit card program, which rolls on September 24, and includes both co-branded and private-label cards. The former, the Capital One Walmart Mastercard, includes 5% back on purchases made on Walmart.com or paid for in-store using Walmart Pay (the latter for the first 12 months.) The private label card, the Walmart Rewards Card, will offer those same perks, but is limited to being used only in Walmart stores and on Walmart.com.

After the 12-month introductory period, the co-branded Mastercard will drop to 2% on Walmart purchases in stores, instead of 5%. However, it will continue to offer 5% on Walmart.com purchases, including Walmart Grocery.

It also offers 2% back on restaurants and travel and 1% back everywhere else. The card doesn’t include any annual fee or foreign transaction feeds, and its rewards can be used any time, Walmart says.

Customers can apply for the new card via Walmart’s website or app, or through CapitalOne.com. The application itself can be filled out using a mobile device and, once approved, customers gain access to the card immediately. They can also load the card into Walmart Pay or into the Walmart app before the physical card arrives in the mail — similar to how Apple’s new Apple Card works.

Through Capital One, customers will receive purchase notifications, security alerts, 0% fraud liability, and the ability to lock/unlock a lost or stolen card from the Capital One app.

The new Walmart store card, meanwhile, also offers 5% back on purchases on Walmart.com, in Walmart app, and on Walmart Pay in-store purchases during the introductory period. It then offers 2% back on Walmart purchases afterward. It also earns 2% back at Walmart Fuel Stations.

Current Walmart cardholders will be converted to the Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard or the Walmart Rewards Card, starting October 11, with physical cards arriving in November. They’ll also earn 5% back through Walmart Pay through October 14, 2020.

Walmart’s prior card, from Synchrony Bank, offered smaller rewards, noted Sara Rathner, credit cards expert at NerdWallet, in a statement published this morning.

“The Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard is definitely helping to cement 5% back as the gold standard among retail cards. We already see this rewards rate with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa card and the Target REDcard. The previous Walmart card issued by Synchrony Bank only offered 3% back on Walmart.com and a paltry 1% back in-store, so the new card is a huge step up,” she said.

Credit card partnerships are an area of importance to major retailers, including Walmart’s chief rival, Amazon. Its credit card program includes a variety of options, including store cards, travel cards, prepaid cards, no annual fee cards, reward points cards and more. And of course both retailers today are, to some extent, challenged by Apple, which just entered the credit card space, too.

Branded store cards not only help to increase customer loyalty, they also drive more purchases, reduce credit card processing fees, create additional profit in the form of interest, and generate records of customer purchases that can be used for targeted advertising.

“As our company has evolved to serve customers shopping in stores, online, and on the Walmart apps, we also recognized the need to fully digitally enable the cardholder experience,” said Daniel Eckert, senior vice president, Walmart services and digital acceleration, in a statement. “That’s why we’ve worked with Capital One to make it possible for cardholders to manage essentially every interaction with the program right from the palm of their hands,” he said.

 

GoDaddy upgrades its website builder with customized marketing action plans

GoDaddy’s website-building product GoCentral is getting an upgrade today — and along with new features, there’s a new name, Websites+Marketing.

As you can probably guess, Websites+Marketing isn’t just a website builder. After all, as Senior Director of Product Management Heidi Gibson put it, a small business website is now part of a “a whole ecosystem that comprises your online presence.”

These are issues that Gibson said she’s experienced directly, as the chef/owner/”Commander in Cheese” at The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in San Francisco.

“Our typical customer, our target customer is not just a small business — they’ve got one to five employees … they don’t know what they’re supposed to do, they don’t know what’s effective,” she added. Complicating matters is the fact that “where you need to be will not be the same answer for every kind of business.”

So GoDaddy Websites+Marketing — which Gibson described as “an evolution of GoCentral” — includes tools to manage email marketing and search engine optimization, and it syncs up with Facebook, Yelp, Instagram and Google My Business, so that it’s easy to read the latest reviews and comments, respond and post other updates directly from your Websites+Marketing dashboard.

GoDaddyInSight Dashboard

It also includes a new feature called GoDaddy Insight, which relies on anonymized data — aggregated from all the businesses using GoDaddy and GoCentral — to provide entrepreneurs with a score on how their online presence and marketing compares to similar businesses, as well as an action plan recommending the next steps for improvement.

The website-builder looks pretty slick, too. Gibson acknowledged that some of the features will look pretty similar to anyone who’s used a competing product, but she said even here, GoDaddy has taken steps to make things easier.

For example, the Site Makeover feature businesses them to get a quick view at how their content might look laid out on each of the 20-plus website templates, rather than making them click through each one. And thanks to GoDaddy’s recent acquisition of Sellbrite, businesses can also manage their product listings across online marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart and eBay.

GoDaddy Websites+Marketing is available in four pricing tiers, ranging from $10 to $25 per month.

Natural lighting is the key to Apple’s remodeled Fifth Ave. store

When it opened in 2006, Apple’s Fifth Avenue flagship quickly became a top destination for New York City residents and tourists, alike. The big, glass cube was a radical departure from prior electronics stores, serving as the entrance to a 24-hour subterranean retail location. Location didn’t hurt either, with the company planting its flag across from the Plaza Hotel and Central Park and sharing a block with the iconic high-end toy store, FAO Schwarz.

Since early 2017, however, the store has been closed for renovations. Earlier this month, the company took the wraps off the outside of the cube (albeit with some multi-color reflective wrap still occupying the outside of the familiar retail landmark). Last week, the company offered more insight into the plan as retail SVP Deirdre O’Brien took to the stage during the iPhone 11 event to discuss the company’s plans for the reinvented space.

Fifth Ave 1

During a discussion with TechCrunch, Apple shed even more light on the underground store, which will occupy the full area of the Fifth Avenue plaza. As is the case with all of Apple’s flagships, light is the thing here — though that’s easier said than done when dealing with an underground space. Illuminating the store is done through a combination of natural lights and LEDs.

When the store reopens, a series of skylights flush on the ground of the plaza will be doing much of the heavy lifting for the lighting during the day. Each of those round portholes will be frosted to let the light in, while protecting the privacy of people walking above, with supplemental lighting from silver LED rings. That, in turn, is augmented by 18 (nine on each side of the cube) “sky lenses.” Oriented in two 3×3 configurations, the “sculptural furniture” will also provide seating in the outdoor plaza.

Of course, the natural lighting isn’t able to do all of the work for a 24-hour store. That’s complemented by a ceiling system that uses a similar stretched fabric-based lighting system as other Apple Stores. Here, however, the fabric will take on a more cloud-like structure with a more complicated geometrical shape than other Apple stores. The fabric houses tunable LED lights that react to the external environment. If it’s sunny outside, it will be brighter downstairs. When it’s cloudy, the lights will dim.

In all, there are five modes tuned to a 24-hour cycle, including:

  • Sunrise: 3,000K
  • Day: 4,500K-5,250K (depending on how bright it is outside)
  • Sunset: 3,000K
  • Evening: 3,250K
  • Night: 3,500K

Screen Shot 2019 09 17 at 12.21.48 PM

Sunrise and sunset are apparently the best time to check it out, as the lights glow warmly for about an hour or so. There are 80 ring lights in all, and around 500,000 LEDs, with about 2,500 LED spotlights used to illuminate tables and products inside the store. The natural lighting also will be used to keep alive eight trees and a green wall in the underground space. 

The newly remodeled store opens at 8AM on September 20, just in time to line up for the new iPhone.

Trigo raises $22M for an automated grocery check out platform, similar to Amazon Go

Automated check-out systems in supermarkets, where cashiers are replaced by barcode-readers and touchscreen interfaces for taking payments, have become a commonplace fixture in many parts of the world. But today, a startup that’s building many believe will be the next generation of such systems — computer-vision-powered platforms that monitor what you take from the shelves and automatically tally it up as you are on the move so that you can leave without checking out — has raised funding to continue developing its product and help it connect with grocery retailers that have seen the advances of Amazon Go and also want to get in on the AI action, without getting involved with Amazon itself.

Trigo, a computer vision startup out of Tel Aviv that is building checkout-free grocery purchasing systems specifically targeted at large supermarkets, has picked up a Series A round of $22 million. The funding is being led by Red Dot Capital, with previous Vertex Ventures Israel and Hetz Ventures also participating. This round brings the total raised by Trigo to $29 million.

The company is not disclosing its valuation but says that it has a number of deals in place already with grocery chains, including an unspecified European chain and Shufersal, the largest grocer in Israel.

Shufersal already has plans to implement Trigo’s solution in 280 stores in the next five years, which speaks to the company’s ambitions and traction to date, even at this early stage in its development: The company says that it’s already piloting its camera and sensor technology in stores that are 5,000 square feet, or twice the size of a typical Amazon Go store. It’s however still fairly small compared to the size of a large supermarket (35,000-45,000 square feet) or even smaller challenger markets like a Trader Joe’s or a Lidl (20,000 square feet).

As with Amazon Go, Trigo works by implementing a series of cameras throughout a store to monitor shoppers and record what they are placing into their baskets. This is not just about being able to identify items: it’s also a triangulation system to ensure that people are not charged twice for items, and that items are removed from the total if they are discarded before a person leaves the store.

And it’s not just to speed things up, either. It’s to make shopping great again.

“I don’t actually think people really want grocery e-commerce,” co-founder and CEO Michael Gabay said. “They do that because the supermarket experience has become worse with the years. We are very much committed to helping brick and mortar stores return to the time of a few decades ago, when it was fun to go to the supermarket. What would happen if a store could have an entirely new OS that is based on computer vision?”

Unlike Amazon Go, Trigo is not tied to any specific company that might potentially compete with the retailers that it is targeting, and the product can be implemented to work with loyalty cards, or without them.

However, given that Amazon has built one of the world’s most valuable companies by being both a simultaneous competitor and partner to businesses, I’m not sure that its competitor status will be a gating factor to the growth of Amazon Go, if it decides to productise it and sell the technology to other retailers… and neither does Michael Bagay, the co-founder and CEO of Trigo, who said he was really happy to see Amazon Go launch.

“The technology behind Amazon Go existed in the industry for about a decade before Amazon Go,” he said (his own company launched in 2018). “But after it launched, it was a moment of realising, ‘Ah, this is really happening!'” Meaning, he knew now would be a fruitful period because other grocery retailers would want to get on board, and even if Amazon did roll Go out as its own service, and a service used by other retailers, there will be others who will never work with it, presenting a market opportunity to his startup.

If the endgame is bringing the time spent in the checkout phase down to zero, there are other startups working on alternative ways to reach that. Just last week, Caper raised a round of funding for a system that is based on “smart” trolleys, with sensors attached to grocery carts to take note of items and add them to your shopping bill. While the shopping cart might have the advantage of being able to more closely monitor an individual’s own shopping cart, store-wide systems like Trigo’s will potentially cost less to operate and the software might even be something that can be used on existing in-store cameras.

Interestingly, at a time when patents form one of the key ways that a company defends its intellectual property, Trigo is taking another approach. “We don’t file patents because we don’t want our technology to be public,” Gabay, who founded the company with his brother Daniel, said. “We have things that we don’t want anyone to see.” It’s an ironic, if perhaps telling, stance for a computer vision company.

In the rush to build tech solutions to all the world’s problems (and if not problems, at least all the world’s processes) there are bound to be others building further technology to bring grocery stores into the twenty-first century. Trigo presents one route to getting there, making it as much coveted company for grocery businesses as it is for the companies that provide other services to them.

“We believe that Trigo’s world-leading computer-vision team will be the first to scale this technology globally and unlock the full potential of a true grocery-wide revolution,” said Barak Salomon, Managing Partner of Red Dot Capital. “The process of manually scanning barcodes for each separate item at checkout is outdated and time consuming. Trigo’s technology is going to save brick and mortar, revitalizing the in-store experience while keeping the best part of shopping alive.”

How to get people to open your emails

We’ve aggregated the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you’re going stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice you can’t get elsewhere.

Our community consists of 600 startup founders paired with VP’s of growth from later-stage companies. We have 300 YC founders plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo, and Ritual .

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve’s marketing webinars, Slack group, or marketing training program. See past growth reports here and here.

Without further ado, onto the advice.


How can you send email campaigns that get opened by 100% of your mailing list?

Based on insights from Nick Selman, Fletcher Richman of Halp, and Wes Wagner.

  • First, a few obvious pieces of advice for avoiding low open rates:
    • Avoid spam filters by avoiding keywords commonly used in spam emails.
    • Consider using email subjects (1) that are clearly descriptive and (2) look like they were written by a friend. Then A/B your top choices.
    • Include the recipient’s name in your email body. This signals to spam filters that you do in fact know the recipient.
  • Now, for the real advice: Let’s say 60% of your audience opens your mailing, how can you get the remaining 40% to open and read it too?
    • First, wait 2 weeks to give everyone a chance to open the initial email.
    • Next, export a list of those who haven’t opened. Mailchimp lets you do this.
    • Important note: The reason many recipients don’t open your email is because it was sent to Spam, it was buried in Promotions, or it was insta-deleted because it looked like spam (but wasn’t). The goal here is to resuscitate these people. You have two options for doing so:
    • (1) Duplicate the initial email then selectively re-send it to non-openers. This time, use a new subject (try a new hook) and downgrade the email to plain text: remove images and link tracking. De-enriching the email in this way can help bypass spam filters and the Promotions tab.
    • (2) Alternatively, export your list of non-openers to a third-party email tool like Mailshake (or Mixmax).
      • First, connect Mailshake to a new Gmail account on your company domain.
      • Next, configure Mailshake to automatically dole out small batches of emails on a daily schedule. Let it churn through non-openers slowly so that Gmail doesn’t flag your account as a spammer.
      • Emails sent through Mailshake are more likely to get opened than emails sent through Mailchimp. Why? Mailshake sends emails through your Gmail account, and Gmail-to-Gmail emails have a greater chance of bypassing Spam and Promotions folders, particularly if the sender doesn’t have a history of its emails being marked as spam.

How to get your ads working, and whether PR is worth it

We’ve aggregated the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you’re going stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice you can’t get elsewhere.

Our community consists of 600 startup founders paired with VP’s of growth from later-stage companies. We have 300 YC founders plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo, and Ritual.

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve’s marketing webinars, Slack group, or marketing training programSee past growth reports here.

Without further ado, onto the advice.


How to get customer testimonials from hard-to-reach executives

Based on insights from Guillaume Cabane.

A customer testimonial from a well-known executive may be the social proof that improves conversion rates on your landing pages or in sales collateral. But executives of reputable companies are generally busy and difficult to reach.

Here’s how to get the testimonial:

  • Contract with a freelance journalist who’s written for a reputable publication like the New York Times.
  • Reach out to your executive customers with something like “Hey, we have a journalist who has previously written for NYT who’s interested in speaking to a few of our customers for a piece. Do you have 15 minutes for a quick call?”
  • For $200 in freelancer time, you get a testimonial you can use (in the words you want) from a reputable executive. Be sure to figure out some way to make it worth the executive’s time.

How to work with top influencers and avoid ad blockers

We’ve aggregated the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you’re going stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice you can’t get elsewhere.

Our community consists of 600 startup founders paired with VP’s of growth from later-stage companies. We have 300 YC founders plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo, and Ritual.

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve’s marketing webinars, Slack group, or marketing training program.

Without further ado, onto the advice.

Editor’s note: This is the first of a new series of articles on startup growth tactics in 2019 for Extra Crunch. This first article has been unlocked for all TechCrunch readers.


Don’t abandon email unsubscribers. They’re still useful.

Based on insights from Matt Sornson of Clearbit.

You’ve launched a new feature and want to tell your audience about it. You can send an email to your newsletter subscribers, but how do you reach the 20%+ who unsubscribed? Most people mistakenly consider this audience to be a lost cause.

  • Create a custom audience of all newsletter unsubscribers on Facebook.
  • Run ads announcing the new feature to that audience.
  • Now you’ve reactivated people who at one point had an interest in your product — instead of forever ignoring them.

Tips for effectively working with influencers

Based on insights from Barron Caster of Rev.

  • Create a referral system for influencers: Influencers who sign up others get a % of their sales or signups. This makes a mini-pyramid structure and turns your influencers into a salesforce. Why is this important? Some influencers don’t actually sell products, but just sign up tons of other influencers. Find these people.
  • Get everything you can out of an engagement (e.g. permission to use them as a testimonial for emails, social proof, etc.).
  • Working with influencers is a relationship-building game:
    • Actually go to conferences to meet influencers.
    • Treat influencers like royalty. Surprise them with gifts like flowers/donuts. $100 to send a gift can pay hefty dividends if they like your brand more and share that with their followers.
    • Give influencers a tangible benefit to share with their followers. They care about their followers and want to beneficially incentivize them to click on their link and buy with them.

More tips for working with influencers

Based on insights from Cezar Grigore of Tremo Books.

  • Geo rollouts: Your ROI increases when a bunch of influencers in the same category / region share your product within an interval of 2-4 weeks. It gives the impression that everyone is talking about your product.
  • Initially focus on influencers with 10-150k audiences. They’re smaller and more willing to accept bartered deals. There are enough influencers in this range willing to work in exchange for a free product. Most may not be producing results, but some work well, bringing in 50-200 customers within 24 hours. As you build up your following and reputation for your brand, it becomes much easier to work with more influential people.
  • It’s harder to cut deals with bigger influencers (100k-2M). Only about 5-10% of bigger influencers are willing to work on an affiliate basis (e.g. $10/customer).

Overcoming ad blockers that screw up your conversion data

  • Ad blockers can block FB’s tracking libraries and underreport ad conversions (even by 50%). The trick? Consider using the static IMG FB pixel — not the JavaScript one — which ad blockers don’t appear to block. — C.
  • Here’s another ad block workaround: You can extract UTM tags from the URL then save them into LocalStorage using JavaScript. Next, send that stored data plus the user’s on-site conversion behavior to a custom backend that, inherently, will circumvent ad blockers. Just be diligent about ensuring your marketing links all have UTM tags. —Neal O’Grady of Demand Curve
  • Remember that the use of ad blockers varies heavily by audience and device type. Depending on who your audience is, ad blockers can either be a huge problem or a non-problem. —Neal O’Grady of Demand Curve
    • So, for example, few people on mobile have ad blockers. Not much of a problem there.
    • However, on desktop, up to ~75% of millennial gamers and techies may have it installed.
    • In contrast, on desktop, maybe only 25% of middle-aged Americans outside of tech hub cities may have it installed.
    • These are hand-wavy numbers. Google for specifics.

Amazon tests a one-tap review system for product feedback

Amazon is testing an easier way for people to leave product feedback with the launch of one-tap ratings. The change is meant to encourage those who don’t have the time, energy or interest in writing reviews to still share their opinion about the product, which benefits the larger Amazon community of shoppers who are reliant on ratings and reviews to make better purchasing decisions.

If you have access to the new experiment, you’ll be able to just tap once to leave your star rating on any item, without having to fill out additional fields like a review title and written review, as previously required.

You’ll also be able to access these one-tap ratings from a number of places, including the “Your Orders” page on Amazon where you can tap the “Write a Review” button; by going to a product page directly; or by responding to solicitations sent to you from Amazon or those that appear on the homepage when you log in.

The process of leaving a one-tap review is extremely simple — you just select the star rating and you’ll then see a green checkmark confirming the submission.

Only those one-tap ratings from Verified Purchases will contribute to the product’s overall star rating. You’re also able to expand on your feedback later on, if you choose, by adding a review, photos, or video.

amazon ratings test

The new feature could go a long way towards being able to collect feedback from a larger number of online consumers, as many don’t bother with writing reviews. It could also help balance out the ratings with feedback from real shoppers, as opposed to those who may have been incentivized or paid to leave reviews.

That’s against Amazon policy, of course, and is a practice the retailer has been cracking down on for years — including by outright banning incentivized reviews, by way of multiple lawsuits, fines, and through suspensions of seller accounts. But there are still services out there offering to boost a product’s Amazon reviews through less-than-official tactics. And there are products on Amazon that continue to have suspiciously positive reviews, ranging from weight loss pills to Bluetooth headphones.

Flooding those products with legit reviews from real customers could bring about a more accurate rating, even if Amazon isn’t able to fully flush the scammers from its review community.

The new ratings test is showing both online and in the mobile app worldwide. Not everyone will see the feature at this time as some customers will be in a control group.

Amazon confirmed the new feature is an experiment, not a public launch.

“We are testing a feature that allows customers to leave feedback easily while also helping shoppers get authentic customer ratings on products from a broader set of shoppers,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

 

Calculating sales efficiency in a start-up: The magic number that will help you scale

Sales efficiency is the best way to understand the economics of a business. To me, it answers the question as to whether a business can ever scale. The harsh truth is, if it can’t scale, investors won’t be interested.

Sales efficiency is more simple to measure than other related concepts like CAC (customer acquisition cost) or LTV (lifetime value). Here’s why:

  • CAC is harder to truly measure, especially new CAC. In a SaaS organization, sometimes it can be hard to allocate those costs to what that new CAC is, as opposed to upsell or cross-sell within the same organization. Salespeople are almost always trying to pursue two goals:
    • Trying to acquire new customers
    • Selling within an existing customer (more seats within an established department, or expanding to a new division)

These activities generate different CAC; trying to strip out only the new CAC can be tricky. Sales efficiency, on the other hand, looks at all net new ARR (annual recurring revenue), which includes new customer ARR as well as expansion ARR.

  • LTV tries to measure the value of a customer over time, assuming both repeat purchases and eventual churn; this gives you a good sense of the ultimate value of that customer to your business over time. The challenge with LTV in SaaS is that the data points that you might use to assume churn and repeat purchase behavior aren’t very robust — there are few SaaS businesses that have enough customers to really make these numbers reliable.

Enterprise businesses should focus on unit economics of sales early. When a business scales, it rarely buys you better economics — usually it just means more losses.

Gracphic for sales efficiency

Image via Ryan Floyd / Storm Ventures

The role of sales efficiency in your ‘go-to-market fit’

At Storm Ventures we use a concept we call finding ‘go-to-market fit’ (GTM fit).

Patreon sells product curation site Kit to Geniuslink

Patreon, the platform for independent content creators to operate membership businesses for their core fans, announced it is selling the assets of Kit.com to localized affiliate link service Geniuslink.

Founded in 2015, Kit is a social-shopping platform where influencers curate bundles of products (“kits”) they recommend. When their fans buy products they featured in a kit, the influencer earns an affiliate fee commission. Kit has 2.3 million monthly web visitors, according to SimilarWeb.

Among the most notable content creators on Kit, YouTuber Casey Neistat curated a kit featuring his favorite camera gear and author Tim Ferriss curated kits featuring his favorite podcasting equipment and the health products recommended by interviewees in his Tools of Titans book.

Screen Shot 2019 09 12 at 8.40.53 AM

Screenshot of Kit.com’s profile site for Tim Ferriss

Patreon acquired Kit in June 2018 in what Patreon’s SVP Product Wyatt Jenkins described to me during my in-depth series on the company as “close to an acqui-hire,” adding that “although Kit is a good revenue source for a lot of creators — so it’s not a shut-down of Kit — we’re maintaining it but not iterating on it.” 

Kit had previously raised $2.5 million in venture capital from backers like Social Capital, #Angels, Precursor Ventures, Expa and Ellen Pao. While the Kit site remained active, the team behind it was reassigned to lead product development for Patreon’s merch offering

It is unsurprising that Patreon found a new home for the asset. While Kit is a tool for creators to monetize, it doesn’t enhance paid memberships for fans, and that’s Patreon’s exclusive focus right now. Even Patreon’s merch product is only for offering merch as a benefit for membership tiers, not for managing an e-commerce store with one-time transactions.

In a blog post today announcing the acquisition, Geniuslink wrote that “The first order of business for Geniuslink is to migrate Kit to the Geniuslink infrastructure and work to improve speed and reliability while our operations team dives into user support. We look forward to adding additional functionality for creators to monetize their kits in the coming months.”

Geniuslink launched in 2009, originally branded as GeoRiot. The bootstrapped company has 13 employees headquartered in Seattle.

Social commerce is a popular trend right now, with other social platforms testing e-commerce integrations for users (particularly influencers) to feature products. YouTube now has a built-in merch section for a creator to sell products under their videos, and Instagram lets influencers sell products directly in the app. These have the advantage of providing influencer-curated shopping experiences right where influencers and their fans already are.

Those features assume an influencer is selling their own products, however, or at least the products of a brand they’ve formally partnered with. For Kit and its affiliate link model, the focus is on influencers as trusted curators for their fans. The influencer can feature a much wider variety of products and do so immediately, without negotiating a deal with each brand. 

That’s also why the model likely doesn’t make sense for many popular influencers — they want more money for their endorsement of a product than a standard affiliate link fee, and recommending lots of products they don’t have formal deals to promote may undercut them in their negotiations with brands.

As Geniuslink adds more monetization features to Kit, perhaps it will make it a more lucrative business activity for small and large influencers alike.