What happened in the eCommerce world in the year 2016?

From January to December, a lot happened. And that “a lot” affected most areas in the eCommerce world. So here you go—the biggest stories of 2016 in one single post.

January

  • Walmart announced that it would shut down 269 stores globally owing to the growing competition from online retailers like Amazon. The closures would affect 10,000 U.S. workers and 16,000 worldwide. Read more here.
  • A report by Amazon showed that its revenue for the last quarter of 2015 has soared, but its profits were a lot skimpier than investors had expected. As you can imagine, Wall Street was crushed. Read more here.
  • Reports of Amazon slowly completing its acquisition of a French parcel delivery company, Colis Privé, led many to believe that the eCommerce giant was (and still is) quietly building its own shipping company. One to rival the likes of UPS and FedEx. Read more here.
  • Amazon reported that sellers had added the Prime flag to 500,000 marketplace SKUs and as we can see, it's paying off. Read more here.
  • Etsy launched a new feature for sellers called Shop Videos. Shop Videos allows the seller to showcase the story of the creation of the store and the items on sale. Read more here.

February

  • eBay announced its plans for a year of Amazon ass-kicking by outlining the strategies it would take to improve its marketplace. Read more here.
  • Amazon raised its free-shipping minimum to $49 for non-prime members in a bid to push more of its customers to subscribe for its $99/year Prime membership. Read more here.
  • Walmart announced that its fourth quarter eCommerce sales rose 8%, down from 10% in the previous quarter. Certainly not a good look for a company that spent $1.1 billion in web operations alone. Read more here.
  • Amazon jumped into the fashion deep end. It released 1,800 products, ranging from women’s clothing and bags to children’s clothing to men’s tailored apparel, all linked to seven private labels that it owns. Read more here.
  • Amazon quietly made plans to open more brick-and-mortar bookstores following the buzz created by the first such bookstore in Seattle. Read more here.

March

  • Amazon began restricting shipments of specific ASINs into FBA due to low sales thresholds. All without giving any prior warning to its sellers… Read more here.
  • China's Finance Ministry announced that it was raising the so-called parcel tax imposed on foreign retail products that eCommerce firms ship into China. The move was seen as a strategy to boost the sales of “made in China” products while denting the small but growing market for foreign goods. Read more here.
  • Alibaba announced that it had sold $462 billion worth of goods on its various sites in the previous fiscal year. This amount was thrice the volume the Chinese eCommerce giant had achieved in 2012, and double its transactions in 2013. Read more here.
  • Amazon's logistics arm took a big leap forward by leasing 20 Boeing 767s that would ship packages to customers in North America. This news confirmed reports that Amazon was and still is looking to take more control of its fulfilment process away from third-party logistics providers like FedEx, the USPS, and UPS. Read more here.
  • Google eliminated sidebar ads and from this arose an opportunity for eCommerce companies. Product placement. Read more here.

April

  • Etsy launched a new service called Pattern that allows it sellers to set up their own websites in just minutes. What makes Pattern unique is its seamless integration with Etsy stores. Read more here.
  • Alibaba announced that it had “become the largest retail economy in the world” for the fiscal year that ended on March 31, meaning it had surpassed Walmart's $482.1 billion in sales. Read more here.
  • Amazon scored its fourth consecutive profitable quarter, reporting  $513 million in net income. This was apparently the largest profit ever for the company, and a huge jump from the $57 million loss it had recorded in 2015. Even stocks shot up. Read more here.
  • Amazon's free same-day delivery service for its Prime membership customers expanded to 11 more metro areas: Charlotte, Cincinnati, Fresno, Louisville, Milwaukee, Nashville, Raleigh, Richmond, Sacramento, Stockton and Tucson. Read more here.

May

  • Amazon began preparations to roll out new lines of private-label brands that would include its first broad push into perishable foods. Read more here.
  • Walmart began testing a two-day shipping subscription service and building a regional delivery network, in a bold attempt to take on Amazon Prime. Read more here.
  • Amazon quietly ended its price protection policy on all products except for televisions. But when reached for comment, the company insisted that the policy had not changed and that its customer service agents had made exceptions in the past, but that wasn’t the rule. Read more here.
  • An interesting look at Virtual Reality and its inevitable importance to eCommerce. Read more here.
READ
Reading Roundup: Latest Happenings in eCommerce ~ August 27, 2016

June

  • Amazon sued three of its sellers who were using sock puppet accounts to post fake reviews about their products. The company asked that the defendants be banned from selling products on any of its sites or accessing its services. Read more here.
  • A survey conducted by PowerReviews found that Amazon was the preferred starting point for product search. Google came in a close second, followed by brand/retailer sites and other eCommerce marketplaces. Read more here.
  • Pinterest announced a collection of new tools that would make shopping on the site easier, one of them being an offline-to-online visual search tech that would work with the help of your camera. Read more here.
  • Alibaba's Jack Ma set the record straight in an opinion piece on in the Wall Street Journal saying Alibaba has “zero tolerance for those who rip off other people's intellectual property.” This came just a week after he had raised eyebrows with his comment about fake good being just as good if not better than the real deal. Read more here.
  • The Brits voted for Brexit. And though the withdrawal from the European Union will take something close to two years, it is certain that the European e-commerce industry will be affected. Read more here.

July

  • Amazon was quietly eliminating list prices leaving just one price – the take it or leave it kind of price. The new approach came just as discounts both online and offline had become the subject of dozens of consumer lawsuits for being much less than they seem. And Amazon decided to play it safe. Read more here.
  • The growing problem of Amazon's Chinese counterfeits came into focus after CNBC followed the story of a seemingly lax Amazon and a large number of disappointed sellers whose profits were diminishing due to the influx of counterfeits. Read more here.
  • Amazon scored its biggest sales day ever on its second Prime Day. Worldwide orders rose more than 60 percent compared with the previous Prime Day and in the U.S., orders rose by more than 50 percent. Read more here.
  • Amazon Prime arrived in India. Read more here.

August

  • Walmart announced its bold move to acquire the two-year-old online retail startup Jet.com for $3.3 billion in cash and stock – making it the largest-ever acquisition of an eCommerce company. Read more here.
  • Amazon launched Prime Air, its own dedicated cargo planes. Prime Air is part of a broad effort to speed delivery for ever-demanding customers. Read more here.
  • Amazon introduced “brand gating” as a step to protect big brands from the recent surge of counterfeiting. But rule-abiding sellers were displeased with the expensive and tedious process. Read more here.
  • Etsy announced a partnership with Intuit, Inc. to give Etsy sellers in the U.S. and the U.K. access to Intuit’s QuickBooks Self-Employed accounting software at a discount. The Etsy-Intuit partnership is set to simplify accounting and tax prep for sellers. Read more here.

September

  • Walmart was cutting 7,000 backroom jobs in a move to assign more staff onto the selling floors. Though it looked like one, Walmart said it was NOT a downsizing move but more like a “reassignment” plan. Read more here.
  • A report by The Counterfeit Report revealed that the sale of counterfeit and fake products on sites such as Amazon.com Inc. and eBay Inc. destroys an estimated 750,000 U.S. jobs and costs U.S. businesses over $250 billion annually. Read more here.
  • Amazon launched a restaurant delivery service in London for its Prime customers. The eCommerce giant insisted that there were no menu markups or hidden service fees, and delivery on all orders was free with a minimum order of £15.00 for Prime members. Read more here.
  • Amazon announced that it was speeding up the cross-border delivery of USB cables, smartphone screen protectors, cosmetics and other small, flat items. Such items would now be delivered to Amazon Prime members within five business days, down from eight previously. Read more here.
  • Google warned e-tailers using Shopify for their eCommerce sites and AdWords conversion tracking that they needed to consider updating their conversion count to avoid unexpected duplicate conversion metrics. Read more here.
  • Walmart's marketplace was reported to host products from more than 1,000 sellers and to offer more than 10 million SKUs. Such impressive numbers for a company that is yet to roll out its own fulfillment service. Read more here.
  • Handmade at Amazon expanded into five European countries in a bid to give some form of competition to Etsy. Read more here.
READ
Reading Roundup: Latest Happenings in eCommerce ~ August 20, 2016

October

  • Amazon officially eliminated incentivized reviews, except for those that emerge from within its own Amazon Vine program. This program allows Amazon – not the seller or vendor – to identify trusted reviewers. Read more here.
  • Shopify rolled out a feature that allows its customers to make purchases through Facebook Messenger. It's easy, convenient and not the first time Shopify and Facebook are tag-teaming; Facebook started working with Shopify in 2015 to test out its buy button. Read more here.
  • Amazon began implementing a new policy that requires a tracking on small and light items priced over $10 USD (including shipping). It was quite a shift from the previous policy which didn't require tracking for any items that fit in a USPS Standard Mail envelope or First Class Mail envelope. Read more here.
  • eBay jumped on the Facebook Messenger bot bandwagon with the launch of ShopBot, a “smart personal shopping assistant” that helps consumers dig out the best deals on eBay. Read more here.

November

  • In a bid to address the growing problem of less trustworthy reviews, Amazon made good on its promise to ban “incentivized” reviews from its website. Read more here.
  • Alibaba smashes its own $14.3 billion in sales in 15 hours, making it the biggest Singles' Day ever and the biggest shopping bonanza in the world. 84% of the sales were done on mobile phones. Read more here.
  • Amazon effectively killed Black Friday by making it an event that lasted almost two months. But the big deals were saved for Black Friday Week (and, subsequently, Cyber Monday week). Read more here.
  • Cyber Monday was the biggest day in the history of U.S. eCommerce. According to Adobe Digital Insights, consumers spent a whopping $3.45 billion online on that day. Read more here.
  • Instagram took baby steps into eCommerce territory. It did this with the addition of new shoppable tags in photos. Read more here.
  • According to a report by 1010data, Amazon was already taking over the market share with their private label brands. Read more here.

December

  • The U.S.Office of the Trade Representative again labelled Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. one of the world’s largest destinations for fake goods- a major embarrassment for a Chinese eCommerce titan trying to shake off its reputation as a haven for counterfeiters. Read more here.
  • Amazon made its first commercial drone delivery in the U.K. The package arrived safely at its destination in Cambridge just 13 minutes after it had been ordered. The ultimate aim is that all orders made using Amazon Air will be delivered within 30 minutes and this will be tested in the next months. Read more here.
  • Victoria’s Secret fans were able to purchase looks from the show in real-time as they are shown through the brand’s mobile application. Read more here.
  • Amazon unveiled a concept grocery store that offers a no-checkout experience. The shopping process appears simple. Consumers will be able to enter a store via the Amazon Go app (most likely with a barcode in the app), pick up the things they need and then walk out of the store. Read more here.
  • Global shipping giant FedEx posted second quarter earnings for their fiscal year 2017 beating their revenue target from Wall Street – but falling short on profits. The reason? Amazon and online shopping. Read more here.