Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.
Asana, a well-known workplace productivity company, announced yesterday it has filed privately to go public. The San Francisco-based company is well-funded, having raised more than $ 200 million; well-known, due in part to its tech-famous founding duo; and valuable, having last raised at a $ 1.5 billion valuation.
Each of those factors — plus the fact that Asana is going public — makes the company worth exploring, but its plans to offer a direct listing instead of a traditional initial public offering make it irresistible.
Today, we’ll rewind through Asana’s fundraising and valuation history. Then, we’ll mix in what we know about its financial performance, growth rates and capital efficiency to see how much we can tell about the company as we count down to its public S-1 filing. The Asana flotation is going to be big news, so let’s get all our facts and figures straightened out.
Valuations and revenue
Twttr, the prototype app Twitter launched earlier this year, has been testing new ways to display conversations, including through the use of threaded replies and other visual cues. Now, those features have been spotted on Twitter.com, giving the service a message board-like feel where replies are connected to original tweeter and others in a thread by way of thin, gray lines.
As you may recall, the goal with twttr was to give Twitter a place outside of its main app to publicly experiment with more radical changes to the Twitter user interface, gain feedback, then iterate as needed, before the changes were rolled out to Twitter’s main user base. Since its arrival in March, the prototype twttr app has focused mainly on how threaded conversations would work, sometimes including different ways of labeling the posters in a thread, as well.
Currently, for example, twttr labels the original poster — meaning the person who started a conversation — with a little microphone icon, similar to Reddit. It’s also testing a way to view the tweet details in a card-style layout you can activate with a tap.
But its main focus continues to be on the display of the threads themselves.
Following its launch, the work on twttr slowed as did the excitement over its exclusive, invite-only Twitter experience. Instead of being a continual testbed of new ideas, twttr mostly rolled out small tweaks to threads. And it never branched out beyond conversation redesigns to test entirely new features, like Twitter’s recently launched Topics, for example.
In August, Sara Haider, who had been heading up the design of Conversations on Twitter — a role that included running twttr — announced she would be moving to a new team at the company. Meanwhile, Suzanne Xie, who had just joined Twitter by way of the Lightwell acquisition, stepped in to lead Conversations instead. She confirmed at the time that part of her role would be working with the twttr team to bring its best parts to the main Twitter app.
That work now appears to be underway.
Noted reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong spotted a conversation tree layout being developed on Twitter.com, identical to the one found on twttr.
Twitter Web App is testing reddit-like conversation tree
The concept first appeared on its experimental Twttr iOS app, and now it might come to the web app too! It helps keeping track of the flow of conversation pic.twitter.com/wlOvTR4IWP
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) November 8, 2019
And just this week, the feature was tweaked a bit more to include the ability to focus on a specific tweet, even from a permalink — also similar to twttr’s card-style layout, which highlights tweets you tap within a thread in the same way.
Twitter continues working on Conversation Tree
now with the ability to focus a specific tweet, even from a permalink pic.twitter.com/CVadSqbFDP
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) November 26, 2019
Wong wasn’t opted into an A/B test on Twitter.com to view this feature but rather found it through her investigative techniques, we understand.
Twitter confirmed what she found is part of the company’s broader plan to bring twttr’s features to Twitter — a rollout that will take place next year, a spokesperson said. However, not all the features discovered by Wong will be a part of the launch — just the “best parts” of twttr. (Meaning, the conversation threads, but not necessarily the other tweaks.)
In addition, the company is considering how to use the twttr app to experiment with other features going forward, it says.
Walmart made headlines last week by announcing that it would fold Jet.com into its Walmart ecommerce operations, less than three years after the $ 3.3 billion acquisition.
But, in fact, a closer look at the performance of both sites’ leads reveals:
- This shouldn’t be a surprise, because this has been Walmart’s plan all along, and
- Despite what the headlines say, this is primarily a win for Walmart despite the large acquisition price.
We’ll tell this story with two simple charts. Apologies in advance for over-doing the aviation metaphors. I couldn’t help myself. As the kids say, “Sorry. Not sorry.”
1. Jet’s transactions are way down
The number of transactions on Jet.com rose to more than 600,000 a month in early 2017 but has been on a precipitous decline since then, shrinking to less than 100,000 a month. They don’t even exhibit the holiday-shopping spikes nearly every other retailer exhibits.
A drop like this doesn’t happen by accident, not in a world where Walmart reports that its ecommerce sales were up 37 percent in Q1. Or, after the ecommerce marketplace as a whole has grown steadily since, well, the start of ecommerce. Or, where spending power among affluent urbanites (Jet.com’s supposed strength) continues to rise as economic bifurcation enters its fourth decade. There is a long list of contextual reasons why a rising tide (tailwinds?) should be lifting Jet.com. Because of this, its loss of altitude is even more surprising and stark.
2. Jet.com’s ecommerce fuel, paid search, is also way down
Jet.com is one a handful of ecommerce sites, along with Chewy.com and Wayfair.com, to have successfully bought their growth. Largely this means paying for placement on Google’s search engine results pages, and it’s an increasingly effective strategy. Paid click-through rates on Google are up, particularly for companies willing to spend on expensive awareness-building campaigns across media channels. Consumers simply feel more comfortable clicking on those paid links when they recognize the brand.
Paid search kept Jet.com’s internet traffic aloft. And it has tumbled almost in lockstep with Jet.com’s sales. You could argue that Jet.com’s sales may have fallen for any number of reasons. But there’s only one reason why their paid search traffic went from eight million visitors a month to less than one million: Walmart was reallocating its budget elsewhere. Growing sales on Jet.com simply wasn’t a priority for the retail giant.
The Jet brand and the Jet/Walmart fit remain indistinct
Walmart has pulled back on making Jet a public-facing brand in part because of an ill-defined fit between the two brands. Jet was initially created to reach consumers who cared more about value than convenience. It was designed to be sort of an online Costco, offering very low prices to those willing to pay a membership fee. This would seemingly be a good fit for Walmart, whose growth has come via an unwavering commitment to its brand promise (everyday low prices) and core target (value-oriented non-urban consumers). But over time, Jet morphed into a brand with a reputation of reaching younger, more affluent urbanites – not an existing fit with Walmart, but a potentially complementary one that could help Walmart grow beyond its core.
While either strategy can be reasonable, the Walmart/Jet fit seemed to vacillate between the two, and never really settled on either. Jet has upscale ambitions, but its appeal to affluent consumers may be overstated. In Q1 2019, the top three keyword searches on Jet.com were decidedly mainstream “toilet paper”, “paper towels”, and “Frito-Lay”. It’s not until the fourth keyword search term, “mid-century modern furniture”, that the searches take a more upscale vibe.
Walmart has been toning down its positioning of Jet.com as an urban growth engine, and its discussion of Jet’s role has become increasingly circumscribed. As Walmart put it,
“Last year, we repositioned the Jet site itself. Across most of the country, we saw we could get a much higher return on our marketing investments with Walmart.com, so we’ve dialed up our marketing spend there… However, in specific large cities where Walmart has few or no stores, Jet has become hyper-focused on those urban customers…. The focus has largely been on New York so far, and we’re looking at other cities.”
Walmart’s real motivation in buying Jet.com
The fact is that this acquisition was never about adding new customers or reaching complementary markets. Instead, it was part tech-buy, part acqui-hire. Walmart wanted technology innovations like Jet.com’s real-time pricing algorithm, which helps increase revenue per customer. And while Walmart announced that Simon Belsham, Jet.com’s current president, will leave later this summer, it still has the person they really wanted: Jet.com’s founder Marc Lore, who will continue to run Walmart’s ecommerce business. Lore is widely considered to have led Walmart’s recent overall ecommerce growth, including improvements in operations, infrastructure, and supply chain.
The Jet.com acquisition remains a win for Walmart
Ultimately it’s hard to argue with results. Walmart’s ecommerce sales are up significantly. Its extensive network of stores bodes well in the omnichannel future. Amazon has extended beyond its affluent base to build extensive middle-class appeal but hasn’t penetrated strongly into Walmart’s base. And while Walmart is a distant second to Amazon online, Walmart is far ahead of the other retailers behind it.
Many headlines will try to position Jet.com’s incorporation into the Walmart mothership as a failure. But a deeper analysis reveals that the acquisition continues to go as Walmart planned, and is largely a win for the Arkansas-based retailer.
Stephen Kraus is the head of digital insights for Jumpshot. Kraus is an expert in consumer insights and digital trends, the author of three books and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University.
The post Decommissioning Jet: Two charts proving Walmart planned to ground Jet all along appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
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