3 Things: Live-Selling Bootcamps, Wirecutter for Comfy Clothes, and Coworking in Banks

Happy Sunday! Each edition of 3 Things will contain a dive into 3 rabbit holes I’ve found myself going down recently. Subscribe to get each week’s edition straight to your inbox and if you enjoy it, please share! This past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about:

  • Live-Selling Bootcamps

  • Wirecutter for Comfy Clothes

  • Coworking in Banks

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1. Livestream Selling Bootcamps

There is no doubt that the job title of “creator” in all of its permutations is on the rise. More kids would now rather be a YouTuber than a doctor or astronaut and over 50 million people already make a living as a creator. This can take the form of being an influencer on Instagram, creating videos on YouTube/TikTok, writing on Substack (the platform I’m using for this very newsletter), podcasting, live-streaming on Twitch, or the newest form of creator to start appearing in the US — livestream selling. This phenomenon has been prevalent in China and other parts of Asia for a while and growing rapidly. Platforms like TaoBao Live and WeChat have a reach of 500M+ people and livestream selling generated $129B dollars of revenue in 2020. In India, Meesho is a social selling platform that provides people with everything they need to become an independent reseller and connect with customers on social apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram.

For many years, US companies have tried to bring this form of social selling to the western market but with little adoption. In tech, it’s all about timing and it seems that now may be the time for live/social-selling platforms to begin to take off. Recent startups like Popshop Live have raised hot recent funding rounds and Amazon launched and has been heavily investing in Amazon Live as investors and enterprises clamor for a piece of what could be a huge market opportunity. The challenge is that selling is a very different skill from creating dance videos, posing in photos, or creating a podcast. While the barriers to entry have dropped to near zero for anyone to become a creator (even if you don’t monetize) the barrier to becoming a top salesperson remains high. It doesn’t just involve creativity, it is in itself a skill that requires training and practice.

There have been a few examples of fantastic training programs for selling and 2 that immediately come to mind are Cutco (the knife company) and MLMs like Avon. If you’ve ever had a Cutco salesperson come to your door, the rigor and quality of their training program will be blatantly obvious. Similarly, when you join as an Avon salesperson there are courses, mentors, and ongoing training programs to teach you how to sell. Pair that with modern bootcamps for tech skills like coding (Lambda School) or growth marketing (Reforge) and you have an interesting concept for manufacturing a skilled digital selling force. If you want to get fancy, you can even wrap an ISA (income sharing agreement) into the model where the program is free and you take a portion of sales up to a certain $ amount or certain time period. Additionally, part of the training can be matching individuals with the right products for them to sell and becoming the marketplace bringing merchants and sellers together, similar to Meesho.

2. Wirecutter for Comfy Clothes

I legitimately haven’t put on a pair of jeans (or any “real” clothes) since the middle of March. During the pandemic, I (and pretty much everyone else I know) have spent my days in athleisure brands like LuluLemon, Athleta, and Uniqlo. Just look at the stock market to help paint the picture of what people prefer when they aren’t going to work, going ,out or doing normal social activities. LuluLemon’s stock is up over 260% from march lows and Gap (owner of Athleta) is up 488%. Wirecutter, now owned by the New York Times, built a brand around deep research into various areas of consumer goods to determine the absolute best products in a variety of categories. Whenever I’m looking to buy a new suitcase, umbrella, kitchen knives, shoe insoles, the first place I check is Wirecutter.

With the growth of Shopify and niche e-commerce brands, there is more consumer choice and variety than ever but discovery becomes a challenge and with clothing in particular, the fit, fabric, feel, and function are important variables in a buying decision (part of the reason why many people still want to try on clothes in store before buying). A company like Wirecutter has the opportunity to become the go-to place for all searches like: the most comfortable sweatpants for people with long legs, best socks for people with high arches, best spandex for petite women, and so on. If the site got enough consumer traffic it would not only become a viable affiliate business but would also help up-and-coming Shopify brands find customers without having to pour money into Google and Facebook/Instagram.

3. Coworking in Banks

Starting in the early-2010s, it was clear that the future of banking would be digital. Millennials and GenZs are digital natives and would much rather self-serve on the web or mobile app than talk to a human or go into a physical location. Bank branches were ubiquitous across the US with locations in all cities and towns, often selected specifically for the accessibility and amount of foot traffic, but for the last 10 years US bank branches have been closing at a rate of ~3 per day! Around 2016 Wells Fargo announced that they would be closing 25% of their branches (~2500 locations) and many other large banks followed suit. This year US Bancorp announced closures of ~2300 branches and Covid 19 has forced even older generations to get comfortable with online banking which will only accelerate the closures. Banks also tend to be relatively large when it comes to retail spaces. The average bank branch is 3500-6000 sq ft which is way too big for most stores to rent. They are also not zoned for things like commercial kitchens so additional use cases for the now vacant spaces are minimal.

The question I’ve been asking myself for years is “what goes into the closed banks?” One answer could be coworking spaces. I believe the underlying concept behind WeWork is still very sound and I think that a large company can be built in creating the “Starbucks model” of coworking where every town and city leverages the closed bank branches (which can easily hold 30-50 people) for coworking space. With companies rethinking the need to have employees come to a central office every day, more people will move to different states or choose to live outside a city, but many people still prefer to work outside the home. Given the volume and accessibility of bank branches, employees could maintain a <10 minute commute and have access to a dedicated workplace and the camaraderie that comes with being in an office. When you think about it, most of us don’t actually work with 90+% of our colleagues but we enjoy getting to know them over coffee, lunch, and happy hours. The same relationships and social connection can be built with people you work next to on a daily basis, even if they work at different companies. It would also be cheaper for employers to pay for these coworking seats than for them to maintain expensive leases in cities.

That’s all for today! If you have thoughts, comments, or want to get in touch, find me on Twitter at @ezelby and if you enjoyed this, please share with a friend or two!

~ Elaine