The Next Big Theme: March 2021

Fintech & E-commerce

Buy Now Pay Later Expands with Stripe

Two large names at the intersection of FinTech and E-commerce, Afterpay and Stripe, are teaming up to launch a potentially powerful partnership. Teaming together will allow merchants to offer their customers Afterpay’s “buy now pay later” (BNPL) option through Stripe’s digital payments platform. This collaboration could be beneficial to all parties by expanding the reach of the BNPL option across thousands of merchants and millions of customers. Afterpay will offer Stripe users the option to pay for an online order in four installments without the liability of loans, interest, or upfront fees.1 Merchants will be able to accept Afterpay transactions without consumers having to meet any prerequisites. The partnership extends further by allowing any e-commerce platforms integrating Squarespace to offer a BNPL option as well.2

Cloud Computing

Beyond the Clouds

The Mars Rover team at NASA has enlisted the help of Amazon Web Services (AWS) in processing data retrieved from their Perseverance Rover’s trip to Mars. Having AWS as an asset in the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) allows them to store, process, and distribute large quantities of data and the thousands of images taken from Perseverance’s stay on Mars. One of the main highlights of having AWS as a cloud computing server is alleviating the time constraint NASA faces when sending instructions to the rover and giving it visibility when driving. AWS additionally provides a 3D view of Mars from the perspective of the Perseverance Rover. With the integration of cloud computing technology, increased efficiency has permitted Perseverance to travel longer distances and gather more data than previously possible.3

Health & Wellness

At-Home Workouts, Elevated

The stay-at-home economy has been beneficial for companies such as Lululemon who provide the resources for consumers to stay fit at a time when many cannot or will not step foot in gyms. Since the holiday season, Lululemon began advertising their recently acquired Mirror, which is an at-home exercise equipment tool incorporating a mirror and TV screen. Mirror costs US$1,500 up front, with additional monthly fees for classes. Traditionally Lululemon has been an athleticwear brand, but its move into equipment places it alongside Peloton as an at-home fitness solution. Although the purchase of Mirror cost the company US$500 million, Lululemon reports that the expected US$150 million in revenue has already been exceeded.4 While the pandemic may be coming to a close with greater vaccine distribution, recent inroads by at-home fitness equipment could prove to be an irreversible trend.

Social Media

New Approaches to Monetisation

Twitter and Snapchat revealed many upcoming features to be rolled out within their respective platforms following Investor Day. “Super Follows” announced by Twitter will offer users the alternative to charge followers for access to additional content. The content may include bonus tweets, exclusive groups, newsletters, or badges for support. It is being advertised as a package deal for followers to receive monthly perks. This announcement comes following the success of Patreon, Facebook, YouTube, and other direct payment platforms.5 Snapchat’s announcements circulated around prospective major ad revenue gains which can already be seen through Stories, Snap Maps, and Spotlight. Snap Maps is starting to add small businesses in a bid to increase ad revenue. Snapchat’s monetisation potential was stressed when mentioning that despite having less than 2% of the U.S. digital ad market, the app is reaching almost half of U.S. smartphone users.6

Electric Vehicles & Cleantech

Green Act Boosts EV Car Tax Credit

Top selling electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers such as Tesla and GM, previously faced competitive headwinds by exceeding the sales limits that qualify for federal tax credits. Introduced in the GREEN Act of 2021, the new bill proposes to provide U.S. consumers US$7,000 in tax credits for buying a car from manufacturers that already exceeded the 200,000 unit limit.7 Tesla buyers stopped receiving tax credits after 2019 as the auto manufacturer entered a two year “phase-out” period due to high sales volumes. The GREEN Act would renew EV tax credits in a bid to reward early adoption of EVs. The credit limit for manufacturers would be raised to 600,000 vehicles, and likely spur faster adoption of EVs in the US.8

E-commerce

2020 E-commerce Wrap-Up

Q4 2020 U.S. retail e-commerce sales totaled US$206.7 billion, up 23.56% year-over-year (YoY). Total e-commerce sales for 2020 were estimated at US$791.7 billion, up 32.4% YoY. Comparatively, total retail sales (e-commerce and brick-and-mortar) in 2020 were up 3.4% YoY.9 The fastest growing categories for e-commerce expenditure included: groceries, items for leisure activities such as sporting goods and musical instruments, and home improvement tools.10 The rapid growth of e-commerce is representative of consumers’ embrace of digital technologies amid the pandemic. While it is likely the huge growth in e-commerce seen in 2020 will not remain at such elevated levels as Covid-19 regulations ease, some changes in behavior may be lasting, including curbside pickup and online grocery delivery. Groceries were formerly a niche industry for the online market, making up just 2% of total food and beverage sales in 2019. But with the pandemic, online grocery adoption is expected to reach 55% of US consumers by the end of 2024.11

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This document is not intended to be, and does not constitute, investment research as defined by the Financial Conduct Authority